This article, by Justin Baiocchi, was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 18 July 2015.
In the olden days, when just surviving was difficult and life could be short and brutal – I’m talking about pre-iPhone days of course, so circa 1990 – the art of investing was a simple one. You simply bought a couple of good shares – maybe BHP, Woolworths and Commonwealth Bank – put them in the bottom drawer and forgot about them, happy in the knowledge that your money was safely invested. Sure there might be the odd small economic recession that had to be navigated every now and then, but it was generally smooth sailing as you let your investments gradually grow over time.
Fast forward nearly 30 years however and there is a problem with this strategy. Now not only does every investor need to be able to judge the merits of individual companies accurately, they also need to be an expert on a wide range of topics. The debt position of the Greek government; the state of the Chinese property market; the internal deliberations of the US Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee; the details behind Shinzo Abe’s ‘Three Arrows’ economic recovery plan for Japan; the influence of the ZIRP on global asset prices; the rise of high-frequency trading; the relative strength of the AUS/USD carry trade….I could go on and on.
The simple fact is that when it comes to finance, economics and the stock market, Australia is an island no more. Globalisation has meant that economies and stock markets are more connected than ever. The ability to effortlessly move billions of dollars around the planet at the push of a button; the ease with which an investor in Australia can buy shares listed in the United States and vice versa; 24 hour trading and lightning speed telecommunications; all add up to a world where what happens in your own backyard has only a partial bearing on the performance of your investments. A farmer in rural New South Wales with some money in superannuation would be surprised to know how much of an impact successful negotiations between Washington and Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program can have on the value of their superannuation. But it can and it does.
How does the average investor deal with this complexity? Fortunately the tools which are partly responsible for creating the complexity are also the solution. Facebook, Twitter, online newspapers and newsfeeds, Bloomberg, CNN, the iPhone, cable TV, 4G and omnipresent Wi-Fi – all the tools and sources of news you might need to use in keeping abreast of the daily developments across the globe. The head-in-the-sand approach adopted by the ostrich just won’t cut it today – the times are a changing and so must you.