Johannesburg – Many unit trust investors who have tried to
time the market by moving in and out of funds are nursing burnt fingers.
New figures from the Association for Savings and Investment
South Africa (Asisa) show that many investors in collective investment schemes
have switched out of funds invested in shares at exactly the wrong times.
In the year to end-March, the JSE’s All-share index jumped
44%. In rand terms, local shares beat many other markets, including those in
the UK and the US.
"Unfortunately, most investors wiped out their share of
these gains by hopping in and out of equity exposure every time the market sighed,"
said Asisa CEO Leon Campher.
A report by his organisation which looks back over the past
two years shows that money market funds were the preferred investment for the
first three quarters of 2008, with the equity sector having experienced
"Ironically, investors suddenly started acquiring
equity exposure towards the end of 2008, just as the JSE All-share index had
reached a spectacular all time high. But when they realised that they were now
part of one of the most horrific market meltdowns in history, they sold out of
equities and moved back into money market funds."
Only when the All-share index reached its low on March 3
2009 did investors start acquiring equity exposure again, just to get spooked
by the brief dip in the markets in February this year.
Many investors then dumped their funds with exposure to
shares, and switched to money market funds. But just as they did that, the
All-Share index started to move higher, resuming its slow yet steady climb
towards regaining previous losses. In the first quarter alone the index gained
4.5%, despite the brief dip.
Campher said this means the majority of investors bought
consistently when units were expensive and sold when their units had shed most
of their worth. Over the long term, he adds, this will result in their
portfolios being eroded by badly-timed choices and inflation.
In the year to end-March, the domestic equity general unit
trust sector returned 41.1%, against the 8.3% achieved by money market funds.
Inflation stood at 4.3%.
The domestic equity general unit trust sector delivered a
return of 16.9% per year over the five years to the end of March 2010, while
money markets funds returned 8.8% over this period.
"The only way to maximise returns is by constructing a solid,
well diversified portfolio with a trusted financial adviser and then sitting
out the bad times. Investors who want to achieve inflation-beating returns over
the long term must learn to maintain a steady equity exposure as part of a well