InvestmentsAug 17 2017

Funds to avoid as interest rates rise

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Funds to avoid as interest rates rise
ByDavid Thorpe

Many of the type of funds currently deeply popular with advisers are due a period of underperformance as interest rates rise, according to the head of fund research at Investec Wealth.

Andrew Summers leads a team that buys funds for private clients of Investec and manages £15bn.

He said he is broadly positive on the outlook for the global economy, and believes inflation and interest rates will soon rise.

If he is correct, he said certain styles of investing will fall from favour and the funds following those styles will suffer a period of poor performance, as market sentiment changes.

Mr Summers currently likes funds invested in more cyclical companies, whose share price is affected by ups and downs in the overall economy, typically those that sell discretionary items consumers can afford to buy more of in a booming economy and cut back on during a recession. 

Nick Train's £1.2bn Finsbury Growth and Income Trust is one example, he said, along with others deploying the same style, of funds he would expect to underperform if interest rates are hiked causing bond yields to rise.

This is because the fund is heavily invested in stocks such as Unilever and Diageo.

Mr Summers said those stocks have performed well while bond yields are low because the dividend income paid is viewed by many market participants as being almost as durable as the income an investor gets from a bond.

But his view is that as interest rates and bond yields rise, those investors will move back to bonds, causing a period of under performance for those stocks, and consequently, the funds with significant exposure to them.

At the same time he said funds that buy more cyclical assets will come into favour.

Unilever is the top holing in Mr Train's Finsbury Growth and Income Trust. The trust has returned 234 per cent in the decade since the financial crisis, when interest rates began to tumble. The AIC UK Equity Income sector returned 74 per cent in the same time period.

Mr Summers is a fan of Mr Train as a fund manager and said he expects the long-term performance to continue to be strong, but that it will see relatively weak performance as interest rates rise.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said all manager styles are prone to periods of weak performance and the quality growth stocks preferred by the likes of Train are no exception.

"They have done fantastically well in recent years, and there will come a point where the worm turns and the rest of the market catches up, however that could still be some considerable time away.