Super returns in 2017 outperformed property

Super returns in 2017 outperformed property
Super returns in 2017 outperformed property

Superannuation funds posted double-digit gains in 2017 for the first time in five years, outperforming property returns.

But despite the residential market cooling expected to continue, experts in the Australian Financial Review have warned that the stellar super performance is unlikely to be repeated in 2018.

The average balanced super fund recorded a rise of 10.5 per cent in the 12 months to December, comfortably above the 9.1 per cent total average return from property across Australian capital cities.

The last time super funds had double-digit returns was in 2013, when the average balanced fund gained 16.3 per cent, data from research house SuperRatings shows.

Super returns in 2017 outperformed property

"It would be a huge mistake for people to believe these returns are sustainable. They are not sustainable," said Martin Fahy, chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Fahy said the slowdown in property prices, which he attributed in part to tougher lending rules imposed on the banks by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, was evidence that asset classes could not outperform indefinitely.

Super returns in 2017 outperformed property

"The market reverts to the mean. Long-term outperformance is very difficult to achieve," he said.

CoreLogic data suggests the only property markets to outperform super were those in Melbourne and Hobart, while Canberra was in line with the average super fund return.

The total return includes house-price inflation plus the rental yield.

Super returns in 2017 outperformed property

SuperRatings chief executive Kirby Rapell noted that the 10.5 per cent estimated super fund return for 2017 was well above the 5.6 per cent average annual return over the past decade, although the long-term performance was marred by the global financial crisis, which pummeled shares in 2008.

"Longer-term returns continue to sit close to funds' targets, with the seven-year return reaching a very healthy 8.4 per cent per annum," Mr Rapell said.

The average balanced fund has returned more than 120 per cent on a cumulative basis since the depths of the global financial crisis in February 2009, according to Chant West, another research firm.

The biggest contributor to last year's strong result was global equities, which rallied thanks to low interest rates, the expectation of tax cuts in the US and a global economic recovery. On a hedged basis, international shares surged more than 18 per cent, and on an unhedged basis more than 16 per cent.

Australian shares added more than 10 per cent and unlisted infrastructure and property are both expected to have returned at least 8 per cent, according to Chant West.

Debbie Alliston, head of multi-asset portfolio management at AMP Capital, said 2018 was likely to be more challenging, particularly towards the second half of the year.

"The tailwind that has supported yield-type assets is likely to become a headwind," she told Fairfax Media.


Superannuation Australian Super

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