Neil Hennessy doesn’t just think the U.S. will go over the fiscal cliff; he wants it to happen.
“I hope we go over,” said the Hennessy Funds’ all-around top dog about the fiscal cliff, the name given to the end-of-the year budget changes. On Jan. 1, spending reductions across the entire federal budget will kick in automatically the same day the Bush tax cuts expire. “I guarantee that within six months, Washington will get the tax situation right and the country should be on surer footing. But, within the next 30 days it’s unlikely they would get it right.”
Hennessy presented his 5th annual market outlook, as well as portfolio changes and the renaming of his flagship mutual fund at a New York press conference last Tuesday. Investors are incredibly nervous, said the chairman and chief investment officer of the Novato, Calif., fund house, because there is a crisis of clarity. He pointed to the August consumer confidence level, which hit its lowest point since March 2009, the month the market hit bottom during the fiscal crisis. While the presidential election cleared up the uncertainty over healthcare reform, the fiscal cliff will give us clarity on taxes and regulation, said Hennessy.
From 2008 through 2011, investors have pulled $404 billion out of U.S. equity mutual funds, while putting $775 billion into fixed-income funds. The trend continued into 2012 with equity funds seeing outflows of $116 billion vs. bond fund inflows of $278 billion.
However, Hennessy says equities are the only logical place to be in light of corporate profits near their all-time high. Investors have few other places to go, he said dismissing the real estate sector, the European Union and emerging markets. Meanwhile, bonds are not much of an option with the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond falling to 1.68% from 2.13% a year ago. Meanwhile, the yield on the “Dogs of the Dow,” the 10 highest yielding stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is 4.13%, or 146% higher than the 10-year bond. The current yield on the full Dow Industrials is 2.67%.
In October, Hennessy Funds acquired all ten FBR Funds and merged them into existing funds. This brings the total assets under management at Hennessy Funds to $3.1 billion and total shareholders to about 180,000. The Hennessy Focus 30 Fund after merging with the FBR Mid Cap Fund was renamed the Hennessy Cornerstone Mid Cap 30.
Based on a rebound in the housing market and consumers spending more on their homes, the fund’s year-end portfolio rebalancing pushed consumer discretionary up to 40% of the assets from 30% a year ago. Industrials jumped from 13% to 30%, while Utilities fell from 30% of assets to 0%. The fund also had no assets in information technology or consumer staples. The fund’s top consumer picks are Pier 1 (PIR), Whirlpool (WHR) and Mohawk Industries (MHK). Industrials. In the housing sector he likes Standard Pacific (SPF), KB Homes (KBH), and Meritage Homes(MTH), as well as building products companies: USG (USG), Masco (MAS) and A.O. Smith (AOS).