“$20 oil? I can’t think of anything more bullish!”

A low oil price can only be good for growing the global economy in the long term, says John Stepek. Here, he explains why, and looks at a fund that’s well placed to profit.


A low oil price can only be good for growing the global economy in the long term

Today,I want to let you know about an investor presentation I popped along to yesterday.

The Finsbury Growth & Income Trust is an investment trust with a fantastic record. And it's also part of MoneyWeek's model investment trust portfolio.

So when I saw that the AGM was being held a few minutes' walk from the MoneyWeek offices, I just had to go along and make sure that our readers were still in safe hands

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An investment trust that does the business

It's highly concentrated there are only 24 holdings. This is about as far from a closet tracker as you can get.

It takes a long-term view. The long-term portfolio turnover is 0%-10% a year. Most of the companies it owns are at least 100 years old (more than 80% of the portfolio by value) while half the holdings have significant family or staff ownership. We're talking about strong brands and strong stewardship of those brands.

And it does the job. In the last 15 years, the trust has outperformed the All-Share in all but three years (2005, 2007 and 2008).

So I was interested to hear what manager Nick Train had to say when I popped over to the AGM yesterday.

The first thing to point out is that Train is clearly bullish on prospects for the year ahead. He's excited about the boom in takeovers (currently running at the same record levels as last year). He's baffled by the panic over tumbling oil prices: it's "hard to conceive of anything more bullish for the global economy and capital markets" than $20 a barrel of oil.

Personally I agree with him on oil, but I'd be more rattled about record takeovers it's rarely a great sign.

But the second probably more important thing to note, is that Train is not someone who spends a lot of time fretting about "macro" or valuations. It's all about the companies well-run companies with strong brands and durable business models.

This fund isn't about timing the market. It isn't about protecting your capital in a downturn. It isn't about the short term. It's about investing in very good companies and holding on to them, and benefiting from the growth that should accrue to such companies over the very long run.

In fact, when one analyst asked Train about his selling discipline, he basically said that his ideal holding period is forever he doesn't want to sell. (Though he did admit that Pearson may have been a mistake.)

At a time like now, this might sound unnerving. Everyone else is running around, panicking and selling. Whereas the likely reaction of Train is to do nothing, or view it as a buying opportunity.

But I like that. This is one of the few funds out there where it's really very clear what you're getting. You're getting a fund run by a manager with high conviction, a proven record of getting it right, and a clear investment strategy that he sticks to through thick and thin. That makes it very easy to slot it into your existing asset allocation you know exactly what role it can fulfill in your portfolio.

At the end of the day, this isn't a "bear market" fund (which is why we have a couple of trusts more suited to bear markets as part of the model portfolio), nor is it a "value" fund.

It's a fund that's predicated on the assumption of a long-term, growing global economy, and it's designed to profit from that by investing in high-quality, durable companies with deep competitive moats. It's very much a Warren Buffet approach Buffet as we'd know him today, rather than Buffet the deep value investor.

In short, if you're investing for the long term and you should be you'd be hard-pushed to find a better option.

We'll be updating on the portfolio again soon but if you're a MoneyWeek subscriber (and if you're getting this particular version of the Friday email, you should be) you can check it out here.

John Stepek

John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.

He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.

His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.