Talk Money with Tony Field – August 4, 2015

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (AAP)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (AAP)

There are signs that vehicle sales are slowing, with a drop last month in registrations of commercial vehicles.

The Motor Industry Association says registrations remain at record highs, with the market up five percent for the year to date. But the July sales figures show the pace of growth is slowing.

Total new vehicle registrations rose by just over half a percent last month to 10366, compared to July of last year.

Registrations of new passenger vehicles rose by 2.8 percent last month to 7272, compared to a year ago.

But registrations of commercial vehicles fell 4.6 percent to 3094 compared to July of last year.

MIA chief executive officer David Crawford says: "The sales of new vehicles remains strong but in line with other economic indicators further growth above current levels is uncertain."

The 5 percent growth in the market so far this year was driven by a 4.5 percent increase in passenger registrations and a 5.9 percent increase in commercial vehicles.

"Looking ahead, while registrations of new vehicles for the 2015 year are likely to be above the record 127,179 achieved in 2014, it is unlikely to break the 130,000 barrier for the first time which we previously anticipated might be possible.'

Toyota was the market leader last month, with 18 percent market share. Ford was second with 10 percent share, and Holden, 9 percent. The MIA says that for the year so far Toyota, Holden and Ford remain the overall market leaders.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund intends keeping the majority of its investments in global share markets.

The guardians of the fund have just completed a five-yearly review and decided that 80 percent of the fund's reference portfolio will remain in growth assets and 20 percent in fixed income investments.

This includes investing 5 percent of the fund in New Zealand shares.

The reference portfolio determines how 70 percent of the money the fund manages is invested.

The fund was created in 2001 to help pay for New Zealand's future state pension costs, and it will start paying out money after 2030. But it will continue to grow for decades after that, so it has a very long-term focus.

It has $29.65 billion in investments and grew 17.5 percent in the year to June. Its annualised return is 10.3 percent. The fund was recently named by JPMorgan as the best-performing sovereign wealth fund in the world.

The guardians expect the reference portfolio to produce an annualised return over 20 years of 7.7 percent. That is 2.7 percent above the interest rates generated by Treasury bills.

Over the past five years, the reference portfolio returned 13.2 percent, compared to an expected 8.5 percent.

Guardians chair Gavin Walker said careful consideration had been given to the level of risk it was appropriate for the fund to take.

"Setting the reference portfolio is the most important decision we make as a board. The fund's long time frame and certain cash flow mean it can take on more equity exposure than many other investors. We are satisfied that the 80 percent growth, 20 percent fixed income ratio is appropriate."

"We are prepared to weather volatility in fund returns as asset prices fluctuate in the short-term - indeed, as the fund experienced during the global financial crisis - in order to maximise long-term performance."

Chief investment officer Matt Whineray says: "Growth assets are volatile over short periods and not every individual investment will be successful. Over time and as a whole, however, growth assets deliver a higher return than a lower-risk, less volatile investment strategy, as they are intrinsically linked to economic growth."

The amount invested in global equities is being increased from 70 percent to 75 percent. Sixty-five percent of that money will be invested in developed markets and 10 percent in emerging markets like South Korea, Malaysia, India and Brazil.

The fund is dropping its 5 percent allocation to real estate investment trusts listed on world share markets because it believes its wider share market investments give it sufficient exposure to property.

The fund is going to continue to "hedge" the New Zealand dollar, in a an effort to reduce the impact the volatile currency has on its investment returns.

The managers of the fund take a long term view. So they won't be concerned by the fall on Wall Street this morning.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by triple digits. Investors were not impressed by fresh data showing that the Chinese economy is slowing.

Oil prices fell 4 percent to US$45.17 a barrel.

The energy sector was the worst performing sector on Wall Street, losing more than 2 percent. Chevron fell over 3 percent and Exxon was down by more than 1.5 percent.

Apple lost 2.4 percent, and is now down 10 percent from its February high. It has fallen below its 200-day moving average. The moving average is something that chart traders watch closely and for some investors this will be seen as a signal to sell.

Twitter fell 5.5 percent, closing below $300 for the first time, as the concern grows about its growth prospects.

European markets rose. That was despite a big slump in Greece. Stocks there fell 16 percent, after they reopened for the first time in five weeks.

The German DAX gained 1.19 percent and France's CAC40 was up 0.75 percent.

However London's FTSE was narrowly down, by 0.11 percent.

The kiwi is trading at 65.87 US cents this morning and 90.61 Australian cents. It is 42.27 pence and 60.17 euro cents.

The focus in the next 24 hours will be the latest Global Dairy Trade auction, with futures trading indicating an expected fall of as much as 10 percent in whole milk powder prices.

The Fonterra board meets in Thursday and Friday and will review its forecast payout for the season. It's currently $5.25, but is expected to be cut by a dollar or more. The Board may not cut the forecast price by quite that much if it thinks there is a realistic prospect of some recovery in prices in the coming months.

State-owned enterprise Solid Energy is a lesson on what can go wrong when a company takes on too much debt at the same time that its major product plunges in value.

Just three years ago it was being described as an SOE with an "exciting future" and was being prepared to be partially privatised.

Now Solid Energy's fate is in the hands of the banks.

Here is my talk with Paul Henry about Solid Energy.

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