As consumers, we are used to researching the many choices we have before making a buying decision.
For most people, the process of buying a new product (such as a car) might look something like this:
- Recognize a need
- Search for information
- Evaluate options
- Make a purchase
- Evaluate satisfaction with purchase
In other words, we figure out what we need, and then we seek to learn more about our choices. After reviewing relevant articles, product ratings, buyer reviews, and other sources of information, we can make a final and informed decision.
Same Process For Picking Investments?
Does the above process look similar to how you approach investing, particularly in choosing funds?
If so, Vanguard says it might be worth re-framing how you look at things. Here’s why picking investments is different.
Vanguard, which manages over $3.5 trillion in assets, may have a good point.
The past performance of a car model is hugely important to a consumer’s decision. That’s because the next Honda Civic built in the factory is guaranteed to be much like previous Honda Civics before it.
For investments, however, everyone knows that past performance does not predict future results. And even though this advice is ubiquitous in the investing world, it is still commonly ignored by many investors.
Here’s what happens to top performing funds:
Even though top funds did well in previous years, there isn’t much correlation with the future.
In the above case, top-rated funds got an influx of capital, which made it harder to get the same return. Funds rated five stars by Morningstar received $60.7 billion in new inflows, but dropped 147 basis points in annualized returns in their subsequent 36 month periods.
The other reason for this is that fund management is just a relatively level playing field, and it’s hard to stay a top performer over the long-term.
The best funds leading up to 2010 were all over the place for the next five years, and only 16.2% of them continued to be top performers. Meanwhile, an astonishing 24.1% of the top performing funds fell to the bottom performing quintile, while 12.5% of funds were liquidated or merged.
Keeping this all in mind, Vanguard recommends adopting a different process for picking investments:
We can’t say we disagree for almost any type of portfolio.
The Dominance of U.S. Companies in Global Markets
U.S.-based companies have a heavy weighting in global equity markets. In most industries, their market capitalization exceeds 50% of the total.
U.S. Companies Dominate Global Markets
Are global indexes as “global” as you think they are?
With the aim of tracking market performance around the world, these indexes incorporate securities from various regions. However, while the number of securities may be relatively well diversified across countries, a dollar perspective tells a different story. When market capitalization is taken into account, country weightings may become much more unbalanced.
Today’s visualization is based on a concept by S&P Dow Jones Indices that shows the percentage of U.S.-based companies in global sectors and industries as of December 31, 2019. The calculations reflect the market capitalization of companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index (BMI), an index that tracks over 11,000 stocks across 50 developed and emerging economies.
Percentage of U.S. Companies by Sector
U.S-based companies—those that maintain their primary business affairs in the U.S.—are a major component of many global sectors and industries.
Here’s how it breaks down:
|Sector||% of U.S.-based Companies||Most U.S.-heavy Subsector|
|Information technology||73%||Software (86%)|
|Health care||65%||Health care providers (82%)|
|Utilities||53%||Electric utilities (57%)|
|Real estate||51%||Equity REITs (69%)|
|Consumer discretionary||49%||Specialty retail (73%)|
|Consumer staples||46%||Household products (74%)|
|Industrials||46%||Aerospace & defense (73%)|
|Energy||44%||Energy - other (73%)|
|Financials||44%||Financials - other (73%)|
U.S.-based companies make up a staggering 73% of the information technology (IT) sector. However, China may soon threaten this dominance. The Made in China 2025 plan highlights new-generation IT as a priority sector for the country.
The U.S. is still the world’s leader, but China is coming up very fast.
—Rebecca Fannin, Journalist & Author of Tech Titans of China
Healthcare is also heavily skewed towards U.S-based stocks, which make up 65% of the sector’s market capitalization. This weighting is perhaps not surprising given the success of many U.S. healthcare companies. In Fortune’s list of the 500 most profitable U.S. companies, 41 healthcare organizations made the cut.
The materials sector has the smallest weighting of U.S.-based stocks, but they still account for almost one-third of the overall market capitalization. Three American companies are in the sector’s top 10 holdings: Air Products & Chemicals, Ecolab, and Sherwin-Williams.
U.S. Equity Views in a Global Context
Given the high weighting of U.S. stocks in global sectors and industries, having a U.S. view is important. This refers to investors gaining a clear perspective on the risks and opportunities that exist in the country. Investors can consider the trends influencing American companies in order to help explain stock performance.
U.S. stock dominance also impacts geographic diversification. While it helps non-U.S. investors overcome their home bias, American investors may want to consider targeting specific international markets for well-rounded exposure.
Intangible Assets: A Hidden but Crucial Driver of Company Value
Intangible assets – such as goodwill and intellectual property – have rapidly risen in importance compared to tangible assets like cash.
Intangible Assets Take Center Stage
View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here
In 2018, intangible assets for S&P 500 companies hit a record value of $21 trillion. These assets, which are not physical in nature and include things like intellectual property, have rapidly risen in importance compared to tangible assets like cash.
Today’s infographic from Raconteur highlights the growth of intangible asset valuations, and how senior decision-makers view intangibles when making investment decisions.
Tracking the Growth of Intangibles
Intangibles used to play a much smaller role than they do now, with physical assets comprising the majority of value for most enterprise companies. However, an increasingly competitive and digital economy has placed the focus on things like intellectual property, as companies race to out-innovate one another.
To measure this historical shift, Aon and the Ponemon Institute analyzed the value of intangible and tangible assets over nearly four and a half decades on the S&P 500. Here’s how they stack up:
In just 43 years, intangibles have evolved from a supporting asset into a major consideration for investors – today, they make up 84% of all enterprise value on the S&P 500, a massive increase from just 17% in 1975.
The Largest Companies by Intangible Value
Digital-centric sectors, such as internet & software and technology & IT, are heavily reliant on intangible assets.
Brand Finance, which produces an annual ranking of companies based on intangible value, has companies in these sectors taking the top five spots on the 2019 edition of their report.
|Rank||Company||Sector||Total Intangible Value||Share of Enterprise Value|
|1||Microsoft||Internet & Software||$904B||90%|
|2||Amazon||Internet & Software||$839B||93%|
|3||Apple||Technology & IT||$675B||77%|
|4||Alphabet||Internet & Software||$521B||65%|
|5||Internet & Software||$409B||79%|
|7||Tencent||Internet & Software||$365B||88%|
|8||Johnson & Johnson||Pharma||$361B||101%|
|10||Alibaba||Internet & Software||$344B||86%|
|12||Procter & Gamble||Cosmetics & Personal Care||$305B||101%|
Note: Percentages may exceed 100% due to rounding.
Microsoft overtook Amazon for the top spot in the ranking for 2019, with $904B in intangible assets. The company has the largest commercial cloud business in the world.
Pharma and healthcare companies are also prominent on the list, comprising four of the top 20. Their intangible value is largely driven by patents, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Johnson & Johnson, for example, reported $32B in patents and trademarks in their latest annual report.
A Lack of Disclosure
It’s important to note that Brand Finance’s ranking is based on both disclosed intangibles—those that are reported on a company’s balance sheet—and undisclosed intangibles. In the ranking, undisclosed intangibles were calculated as the difference between a company’s market value and book value.
The majority of intangibles are not reported on balance sheets because accounting standards do not recognize them until a transaction has occurred to support their value. While many accounting managers see this as a prudent measure to stop unsubstantiated asset values, it means that many highly valuable intangibles never appear in financial reporting. In fact, 34% of the total worth of the world’s publicly traded companies is made up of undisclosed value.
“It is time for CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs to start a long overdue reporting revolution.”
—David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance
Brand Finance believes that companies should regularly value each intangible asset, including the key assumptions management made when deriving their value. This information would be extremely useful for managers, investors, and other stakeholders.
A Key Consideration
Investment professionals certainly agree on the importance of intangibles. In a survey of institutional investors by Columbia Threadneedle, it was found that 95% agreed that intangible assets contain crucial information about the future strength of a company’s business model.
Moreover, 98% agree that more transparency would be beneficial to their assessment of intangible assets. In the absence of robust reporting, Columbia Threadneedle believes active managers are well equipped to understand intangible asset values due to their access to management, relationships with key opinion leaders, and deep industry expertise.
By undertaking rigorous analysis, managers may uncover hidden competitive advantages—and generate higher potential returns in the process.
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