Australian equities rose in April, as slowing inflation prompted a reassessment on the need for any further rate hikes from the Reserve Bank of Australia. From a sector perspective, Materials was the worst performer – partly driven by China growth concerns and partly by some disappointing quarterly updates. On the other hand, real estate was the best performing sector after a weak March, supported by a rise in Australian house prices. Gold stocks also performed strongly, driven by the decline in the USD index and a decline in real yields as markets begin to price-in easing expectations.
The State Street Australian Equity Fund underperformed the S&P/ASX 300 Index during April.1 Sector wise, our lower than benchmark exposure to Metals & Mining ex Gold (underweight BHP) was the biggest contributor towards relative performance. Conversely, negative stock selection within Health Care (Healius and not holding CSL) being having a lower than benchmark exposure to Financials (underweight big 4 banks) were key detractors from relative returns during the month.
During the month of April, we increased our Real Estate exposure via Vicinity Centres while taking profits in coal miner New Hope. The upweight in Vicinity Centres was driven by the stock’s strong Sentiment signals, and our preference for its defensive characteristics – including its lower beta and lower price volatility. This was funded by taking profits in New Hope after a strong year for the Energy name.