An interesting side effect of labelling oneself a contrarian investor is that many observers expect a constant stream of non-consensual thoughts and portfolio positions.
It is almost as though the worst offence a contrarian can make is to run with the pack.
This must obviously be resisted and instead the focus should be on taking a contra view if one feels that the potential reward justifies taking the risk that inevitably comes with the position.
As this risk/reward ratio can vary significantly dependant on the opportunity, it is often much wiser for the contrarian investor to sit on his hands rather than to play to the crowd.
Happily, today is, I believe, not a time to be sitting on one's hands. Worldwide, value investing has not worked well in the last decade (although the UK equity market has been far less severe to value investors than say the US equity market).
While one could discuss at length the reasons for value's woes, I believe the major headwinds have been anaemic economic growth, which has left excess capacity in many industries, and low interest rates, which have enabled many companies to remain afloat and which have also greatly aided the valuation of growth companies.
Many commentators, including me, have suggested for some time that long-term interest rates could not continue to grind lower - but they have.
Consequently, we would suggest that over the next few years it is the direction of bond yields that will be the most important determinant of equity market levels and within that the success of different investment styles.
There are contrasting drivers here - the bulls of lower long-term rates (i.e. growth investors) will say that inflation remains low, that there is no evidence of it picking up and that structurally we are living in a period of low inflation.
Interest rate bears (ie value investors) will highlight the risk of inflation complacency among central banks, the likelihood of increased fiscal spending and the need to ultimately inflate away a great deal of long-term promises.
It will be interesting to see how the various pulls on interest rates develop as we move into 2020 and how this impacts equity markets.
Alastair Mundy is portfolio manager of Investec UK Special Situations fund
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