Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and NZME. news service.

After the rollercoaster ride, we're better off than many

File Photo / NZ Herald
File Photo / NZ Herald

The air of quiet optimism that pervaded the New Zealand sharemarket at the start of the year was shattered by world events, but the market still outperformed many of its overseas counterparts in 2011.

WIth only days to go, it's looking likely the NZX-50 index will end the year not far from where it started.

The index closed yesterday at 3216, only 93 points or 2.8 per cent short of where it was at the end of last year.

Investors who feel short-changed by that performance should spare a thought for their counterparts across the Tasman, where the ASX 200 has dropped by 12.8 per cent over the same period.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 has taken a 17.9 per cent dive, largely in response to the devastating tsunami in March and the nuclear emergency that followed.

In Germany, on whose shoulders the future of the euro lies, the DAX has dropped by 17.5 per cent.

Britain has also copped it - at last count, the FTSE index was down 10.5 per cent over the year.

The irony is that America, whose credit rating downgrade from Standard & Poor's sent markets reeling, has seen its bourses bounce back.

Despite an anaemic economic performance and all the haggling over the US budget, the Dow Jones industrial index is finishing the year up 5 per cent.

For New Zealand investors, the year has been a rollercoaster ride.

Strong commodities prices, rebuilt balanced sheets, and improved overseas markets, helped lift the NZX-50 6.5 per cent in the first few months of the year to a 3-year high.

But from May onwards the market went into reverse as cracks started to emerge on the global scene and it became clear that the economic benefits from rebuilding activity in earthquake-shattered Christchurch would take at least a year to kick in.

The US economy was still not firing, and Greece's debt woes were starting to escalate.

When Standard & Poor's downgraded America's credit rating in early August, the NZX-50 sank to a year low of 3097.77, but over the year, the New Zealand market has been quite resilient. Why?

The answer lies in the fact that the market has many defensive stocks that pay reliable dividends, year in year out.

These stocks generally don't go up in a hurry, but they don't go down in a hurry either.

Or, as one fund manager put it, the market is just plain boring.

"Boring is not bad, and this market is pretty boring," he said.

Top 10 stocks such as Auckland International Airport, SkyCity and Telecom, have acted as anchors for the broader market because they are all businesses that can do well in tough times.

Tyndall Investment Management domestic equities manager Rickey Ward says markets heavily laden with defensive stocks can sometimes do better than growth-based markets.

Although the local market hardly set the world on fire in 2011, fund managers expect next year to be more interesting.

"People are hoping next year will be better than the one we have just had, particularly when you've been beaten up for four years," Ward says.

The chief investment officer at wealth management company JB Were, Bernard Doyle, says it has been a good year for the market, all things considered.

In the big picture, the sharemarket is a shadow of its former self. Today it represents just over 30 per cent of gross domestic product compared with 56 per cent 15 years ago.

However, the successful listings of Fairfax's Trade Me, Telecom's Chorus and Quadrant Private Equity's Summerset over the last few months mean the tide is turning.

Investors have taken a measure of confidence from the successful capital raisings of the last few months, in a time when world markets have been in a state of flux.

Tough trading - World sharemarkets this year:

NZX-50 down 2.8pc
ASX 200 down 12.8pc
Nikkei down 17.9pc
FTSE down 8.9pc
Dow Jones up 5pc

- NZ Herald

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