The Australian equity market rose this week as investors continued to digest the Federal Government’s huge budget whilst the RBA Governor seem to indicate that more stimulus will be provided at the November meeting. Declining virus cases in Victoria also supported investor sentiment.
Global equity markets fell this week as concerns arose regarding a broader European lockdown with virus cases escalating, whilst US lawmakers failed to reach agreement on fresh new stimulus.
The Chinese central bank has made changes to currency requirements to stop the Chinese Yuan from rising any further. The measures were previously put in place to stop the decline in the currency, but the recent strong falls in the US dollar have seen the Yuan rise too strongly. All governments and central banks want their currencies lower – a race to the bottom.
The Aussie dollar fell this week as China seemed to restrict the import of Australian coal and the RBA Governor laid the groundwork for a rate cut and more bond buying at their November meeting.
A key speech by RBA Governor Lowe seems to have locked in a rate cut at the November meeting, from 0.25% to 0.10%. This will likely extend to the rate the RBA lends money to the banks and the Government’s 3-year bond yield which the RBA is currently fixing at 0.25%. In addition, the speech seems to pave the way for more traditional quantitative easing (QE), where the RBA will be printing money to buy longer dated Government bonds in order to lower their yields. Both measures should also put a cap on any significant Aussie dollar rise from here.
Australian employment fell by 29,500 in September whilst hours worked lifted by 0.5% in the month. Most of the fall in employment came from Victoria with more than 35,000 jobs lost. The unemployment rose to 6.9% whilst the underemployment rate rose to 11.4%.
The value of all housing related lending surged by more than 12% in August, with strong growth across owner occupiers, investors, and first home buyers. Annual growth is almost 20%. Record low interest rates and lack of supply are combining support house prices, outside of Victoria.
Commonwealth Bank said the number of their loans with deferred repayments dropped by 45,000 ($17 billion) by the end of September to 129,000 loans ($42 billion). Better signs, but repayment extensions were also given to 17,300 customers.
Australian consumer sentiment lifted by almost 12% in October to its highest level since July 2018. The lift was somewhat expected given the significant Federal Budget handed down, but came in much higher than expected, with the rise driven by future expectations in response to personal income tax cuts. Confidence in the housing market also strengthened whilst jobs security also improved.
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting global growth to shrink by 4.4% in 2020 (prior forecast of minus 5.2%) before expanding by 5.2% in 2021 (5.4% previously). They expect the Australian economy to contract by 4.2% in 2020 (minus 4.5% previously) with growth of 3% in 2021 (4% previously).
Australia’s Trade Minister is investigating reports China has suspended the imports of Australian coal. Chinese steel mills and power plants have reportedly been told to stop using Australian coking and thermal coal. The Minister confirmed there has been some disruptions of shipments but no evidence yet of an import ban. PM Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg are facing increased pressure from export industries and business leaders to soften their stance on China.
US President Trump fuelled hopes for fresh fiscal support telling Congress to “go big” and to get a deal done. Republicans then put forward a larger package which the Democrats turned down. This saw Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi come under attack from within her own party and supporter base. US households and businesses desperately need a deal to get done. Politicians playing with people’s lives and livelihoods doesn’t go down well leading into an election. More than 10 million Americans remain out of work. Either they full open the economy or they provide the stimulus.
Virus cases continued to fall in Victoria, but Premier Dan Andrews and CHO Brett Sutton continued to power ahead with Stage 4 restrictions. The problem this time around is that NSW has Stage 2 restrictions with more daily cases. Politicisation of the virus here along with still insufficient contact tracing in Victoria. State borders remain shut, but will hopefully open over the next couple of weeks.
Virus cases continued to increase throughout Europe with leaders potentially reneging on their promises not to lockdown again. France locked down 9 cities whilst the UK was heading towards Tier 3 restrictions. Interestingly, the Mayor of Manchester made it clear they won’t be following any increase to current restrictions, prioritising the livelihoods of their citizens over rising virus cases.
In vaccine news, Johnson & Johnson halted their clinical trial of its vaccine after a participant fell ill. The US FDA has increased safety measures thus extending the timeline for approval. This means we may not get an approval before the US election. Another report cited that the US will have a widely available vaccine by April 2021.
Big Tech came under political pressure this week, drawing the ire of both the Europeans and the Americans. The European Union wants big tech to come under increased regulation to stop them abusing their market power, with new rules to force tech companies to share data with rivals and force them to be more transparent on how they gather information. Across the Atlantic, Twitter and Facebook bordered on interfering in the US election by censoring a New York Post article releasing details of potential Biden family impropriety. Those that shared the article or commented on it saw themselves locked out of Twitter.
British PM Boris Johnson heeded his threat to walk away from negotiations over the future relationship between the UK and the EU on the 15th October, a deadline he had previously set. There remains little sign of an agreement at this stage.
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