Scottish Mortgage (LSE: SMT) shares have been suffering for some time. Year to date, the shares are down 29%, and over the past 12 months, they have fallen 33%. This disappointing performance came after a knockout year in 2020, where the stock rose over 106%.
However, things seem to be on the up for Scottish Mortgage shares, which have risen over 25% in the past month. With today’s uncertain macroeconomic outlook, is now the time to be buying the shares? Or should I avoid this high-growth index fund? Let’s find out.
On Thursday, the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.5%, to 1.75%. This has come after months of red-hot inflation, which peaked at 12.7% in June. Scottish Mortgage was able to ride the early wave of high valuations in 2020 and the start of 2021, but the interest rate hikes of 2022 seem to have burst this bubble.
When interest rates rise, people tend to pull money out of speculative investments like growth stocks and put them into safer assets like bonds. This is because they can achieve a higher risk-free rate of return. This is bad news for funds like Scottish Mortgage, as a large portion of their holdings is focussed on high-growth equities.
For example, its top 10 holdings include Tesla (6.7%), Moderna (8.3%), and Tencent (3.8%), all of which are classed as growth stocks. Higher rates have hurt these stocks’ lofty valuations and pushed the Scottish Mortgage shares down. As rates continue to rise to control inflation, the shares could face even more pressure.
As mentioned, the shares have seen an impressive surge in recent weeks. This movement reflects the encouraging performance of some of the trust’s underlying assets. For example, biotech firm Moderna has risen over 35% since the start of June and makes up a hefty 8.3% chunk of the trust’s asset holdings.
I think the upward momentum reflects the firm’s top-tier management. Although past returns are no indication of future performance, the fund has generated a five-year return of 118% and a 10-year return of 606%. Both of these figures comfortably outperform the FTSE All World Index, which is the trust’s benchmark.
The trust also gives me access to companies that aren’t publicly traded. For example, Elon Musk’s SpaceX makes up 2.9% of the trust. This allows me to benefit from growth I couldn’t get on my own, which is an attractive opportunity. In addition to this, like any investment trust, I am gaining a stake in a wide array of companies and industries all under one investment. This helps my portfolio with diversification and reduces risk.
Overall, I think now could be a risky time to buy Scottish Mortgage shares. Yes, the shares are well below their 2021 levels, and the trust has demonstrated excellent management historically. However, I think that rising rates could continue to hamper the fund’s performance, as it relies heavily on growth stocks. Therefore, this stock will remain on my watchlist for now.