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Friday, May 1, 2009

Juicing The Return

Momentum halted US equities indices were in a +/-1% range, after Treasury
Secretary Geithner said the “vast majority” of banks have enough capital and
comments allayed concerns about next month’s “stress test” results, after an earlier
leak indicating otherwise. Big European banks also reported a brighter 1Q09 results or
guidance. Regional markets were mixed, with profit taking in Indonesia, Hong Kong
and Singapore, while Thailand and Malaysia were up.
• 14 painful years to breakeven at 5.4% p.a. Based on the available sample of MSCI
FExJ data, the long term capital returns for the MSCI FExJ markets works out to 5.4%
p.a. Including dividends, the total returns go up to 8.4% to 9.4%. The bad news is that
at this rate, it would take 14 miserable years before breakeven is achieved for
investments made at the October 2007 market.
• But 6.8% is probably more accurate The good news is that the 8.4% to 9.4% p.a.
returns is likely to be an underestimation of the potential returns of Asian equities. A
sanity check based on the historical cost of equity and the underlying ROE of the
countries under our coverage suggests that the long term returns are likely to be in the
10-18% range. Adding a trendline – albeit crude – to the FExJ index throws up an
implied 6.8% p.a. long term capital returns, or close to 12% total returns if dividends
are accounted for. This is also consistent with the long term returns of 10.7% that have
been documented for US equities.
• Juicing the returns beyond long term returns Returns are determined by the timing
of entry into the market. By definition, markets tend to oscillate around the long term
trendline. The FExJ index is currently below the trendline of its long term growth profile,
as expected. If investors are accurately discounting the GDP turning point that is
months away, risk tolerance should improve and equities should continue its march
upward. A reversion to the long term growth profile of the FExJ markets by the end of
this year implies an annualised return of 52%, while a less optimistic view of a
reversion only by the end of next year produces annualised returns of 24%. At 3.5x and
7.6x long term returns on conservative forecasts, the timing factor favours investors

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