Norman started his career in investments in 1988 and has worked as an investment analyst and portfolio manager in asset management divisions. He has been actively involved in setting up investment processes and held the position of Chief Investment Officer in a previous company. Norman joined RMB Asset Management in 2000.
Momentum Resources comment - Jun 14
Market and portfolio overview
The Momentum Resources Fund had a difficult second quarter due to being heavily invested in the platinum sector. It returned 0.75% versus the FTSE/JSE Resources Index return of 2.9%. As the platinum sector strike that started in January continued almost to the end of June, it became obvious that there were no winners. The affected companies were impacted financially and operationally. Disappointingly, the platinum price hardly reacted at all to the implied drawdown in stockpiles as producers kept the market supplied from inventory. Ultimately, the employees obtained an increase that is unlikely to ever compensate them for the sacrifices that they made during the strike.
Over the quarter, the sector as a whole fell some 6%, with the fund's holdings in Impala and Lonmin down 11% and 14% respectively. We are of the opinion that the industry will emerge leaner and stronger operationally. Market fundamentals are still expected to improve, with more than one million ounces of platinum metal remaining un-mined this year due to the strike; some 25% of expected annual primary supply for 2014. Company valuations remain compelling, assuming a recovery to more normal levels of profitability post the strike. We, consequently, remain invested, despite the recent disappointment.
The gold price remained above US$1 300/oz, with geopolitical risk concerns oscillating between the Ukraine and Middle East. The gold sector was flat, however, with the only real winner being Sibanye, up 26% on positive earnings guidance, whilst AngloGold and Goldfields were down 3% and 5% respectively. We do not see value in the gold sector and believe that economic growth in the US is robust enough to dampen investment demand for the metal and, consequently, the shares into the second half of 2014. Other commodities were firm during the quarter. The oil price was up 7% on fears of supply disruptions in the Middle East and possible trade sanctions against Russia. Sasol reacted favourably, up almost 9%, given that it also benefited from the 1% weakening of the rand against the US dollar.
The diversified mining sector's performance was reasonable given that the price of iron ore, a major earnings driver, fell to $90/tonne as the widely anticipated increase in Australian production negatively impacted the global market balance. Billiton was up 6% and Anglo American down 3% for the quarter, although the latter is still a strong performer for the year. Perhaps the share price resilience was due to the fact that the movement in the iron ore price was expected, or it could be that other commodity prices were firm. Copper and aluminium were both up 6% and zinc 12%. Nickel rose almost 20% on account of the ban on Indonesian exports that curtailed supplies to the Chinese steelmaking industry. Despite these positive commodity price moves, the diversified miners are still vulnerable to earnings downgrades due to the aforementioned weak iron ore prices. On average, sector earnings could be reduced by almost 20% if spot prices persist. This dampens valuation expectations for both Anglo and Billiton and the fund therefore diversified its exposure into Glencore PLC during the quarter in order to reduce its exposure to iron ore.
The Momentum Resources Fund's objective is to maximise equity portfolio returns over the FTSE/JSE Resources Index. The fund provides investors exposure to the volatile but potentially substantial return opportunities provided by companies exposed to commodities.