Strong Finish to 2017
Strong Finish to 2017 by VanEck, For the Month Ending December 31, 2017
International moats, as represented by the Morningstar® Global ex-US Moat Focus IndexSM ( MGEUMFUN, or ”International Moat Index”), trailed the MSCI All Country World Index ex-USA in December (1.75% vs. 2.24%), but finished with full-year outperformance of greater than 3% (30.36% vs. 27.19%). The U.S.-oriented Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM ( MWMFTR, or ”U.S. Moat Index”) followed a strong November with positive relative performance in December, toping the broad U.S. markets as represented by the S&P 500® Index (1.66% vs. 1.11%). The U.S. Moat Index finished the year ahead by roughly 2% (23.79% vs. 21.83%).
International Moats: Japan Weighs, Australia and Brazil Boost
Together with several firms from Japan, utilities and telecommunications firms struggled in the International Moat Index for the month. The bottom three performing companies in the International Moat Index were Japanese companies. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp (9432 JP, -10.43%), which owns mobile telephone operator NTT DoCoMo, struggled in December after posting quarterly results generally in line with expectations in November. SoftBank Group Corp (9984 JP, -6.58%) also struggled in December. The company has a wide range of international and e-commerce investments in its portfolio, some of which compete directly with the aforementioned Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. On the other side of the coin, financials and consumer discretionary companies contributed strongly to International Moat Index returns and the Index also received a strong boost from companies in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, and Brazil. The International Moat Index standout was Brazilian aviation company Embraer SA (EMBR3 BZ, +26.46%), following speculation that Boeing was in talks to buy the company. Shares of Embraer SA shot up and approached Morningstar’s fair value estimate of $26 per share at year end.
U.S. Domestic Moats: Consumer Discretionary Shines
Consumer discretionary companies were the primary driver of strong performance for the U.S. Moat Index in December. While Express Scripts Holding Co (ESRX US, +14.51%) was the top performing index constituent in December, firms such as Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (LOW US, +11.48%), Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA US, +8.11%), and L Brands Inc. (LB US, +7.40%) helped consumer discretionary lead the way. Tech firm Veeva Systems Inc. (VEEV US, -8.19%) was the worst performing stock in the U.S. Moat Index after issuing 2019 fiscal year guidance below expectations. The firm provides client relationship management services to the pharmaceutical industry and Morningstar lowered its fair value estimate four dollars to $65 on December 6th. The consumer staples and information technology sectors were the two sectors to detract from index performance, but only slightly.
This commentary is not intended as a recommendation to buy or to sell any of the named securities. Holdings will vary for the MOAT and MOTI ETFs and their corresponding Indices.