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Weekly Blog

Aussie equities rise as JobKeeper nears end

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au

The Aussie share market finished higher this week whilst global markets were trending lower on concerns regarding further lockdowns in Europe. 

In local stock news, Crown Resorts received an unsolicited and non-binding takeover offer of $11.85 per share, valuing the company at $8 billion. The bid came from US private equity group Blackstone. The bid looks cheap in light of Wynn Resorts’ offer of $10 billion in 2019, but recent regulatory issues at Crown have given opportunistic suitors a window. 

General insurance stocks came under a little pressure this week in light of the rain bomb which blanketed and drenched most of NSW and QLD causing widespread flooding and damage. IAG said it had received more than 8,000 claims. 

Premier Investments, owner of retailers, defended not repaying $15.6 million in JobKeeper assistance after reporting an 88% profit increase. The business posted a 1st half $188 million net profit, a strong result. 

The oil price weakened again this week as concerns arose regarding demand as rising Covid cases in Europe and slow vaccine distribution resulted in some countries increasing lockdown restrictions. There was a small reprieve in the oil price during the week after a quarter-mile long cargo ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking the busy route, raising supply concerns. 

The Aussie dollar fell this week as the US dollar strengthened on an improving economic outlook and dovish rhetoric from the US central bank. A weaker iron ore price also didn’t help. 
Australia’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% in February, 0.5% lower than it was in January, and now sits at pre-Covid levels. The recovery has been faster than anyone expected, however, there are some concerns for the period ahead in light of JobKeeper coming to an end. 

The Australian Treasury has said that the withdrawal of JobKeeper at the end of March could see as many as 150,000 more Australians out of work, whilst more than 1 million workers were still being supported by JobKeeper at the start of 2021. 

Australian retail sales figures for February fell 1.1%, not helped by lockdowns in Victoria and Western Australia, but also a function of the significant amount of retail spending brought forward last year and some concerns regarding the ending of JobKeeper. 

The Australian population fell by 4,200 in the 3rd quarter of 2020, the first fall since World War 1. Net overseas migration detracted from the population whilst the natural increase added but wasn’t enough. Victoria and NSW saw falls, whilst all other states recorded an increase. More recent data shows that the number of returning Australians is still only half pre-Covid levels. Skills shortages will be one to watch. 

Credit rating agency Fitch has upgraded its global growth forecast for 2021 to 6.1%. The new estimate would make for the fastest worldwide expansion since 1980. US economic growth is expected to reach 6.2% for the year, in light of significant fiscal and monetary support, whilst China is planning for 6-6.5% economic growth this year. 

US labour market data showed a declining number of Americans claimed unemployment insurance, with claims dropping to a 1-year low

A busy period for central bankers of late with the Bank of Japan carving out more flexibility in its stimulus arsenal following a review of its policy framework. The US Fed pushed through a dovish message (ie. no changes to their stimulus program and no rate rises), the UK central bank talked up their economic outlook, whilst the Norwegian central bank also provided a hawkish assessment. The Turkish and Brazilian central banks hiked interest rates in order to protect their currencies (which subsequently resulted in the firing of the Turkish central bank president), whilst the European central bank President applied pressure to governments pushing them to roll out fiscal stimulus promptly. 

A key survey showed that private sector activity in the Euro area unexpectedly grew for the first time in 6 months. Manufacturing in Germany was particularly strong, no doubt boosted by Chinese economic growth, whilst factory activity in France was also higher than expected. Both manufacturing and services showed faster than forecast expansions in the UK. 
European countries including Germany, France, and Italy, have restarted using AstraZeneca’s vaccine after the European authorities gave the vaccine its endorsement. Europe is a long way behind on the vaccine front. There are threats to withhold vaccine exports to the UK given AstraZeneca is a British company with production facilities throughout Europe. The need for Europe to speed up its vaccination efforts was brought into focus by France announcing a new lockdown in several regions as well as Germany extending its lockdown. 

US-China relations appear more strained than before after officials from both countries met in Alaska for 2-days of talks that quickly descended into bickering and insults. Fair to say the Americans got embarrassed on home soil and on the global stage. Not a good look.

US President Biden also traded barbs with Russian President Putin following news that the US is considering new sanctions on Russia to block construction of the nearly completed gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Last time I checked, Russia and Germany were consenting adults. Germany and broader Europe need the gas if they are to transition away from fossil fuels over the longer term. Fair to say the US has bigger problems closer to home like the Mexican border and re-opening their economy. 

The authors of a report on the global economic recovery have noted that whilst Australia is amongst the top spenders on Covid recovery initiatives, it has diverted very little of those funds to green projects and ranks last among the top 50 economies in its recovery. Very simply, that’s because Covid recovery efforts should have nothing to do with green projects. Covid recovery is exactly that, ie. getting households, businesses, and the economy back to where they were pre-Covid as fast as  possible. The authors also noted that we had “hitched” our economic recovery to natural gas…..considering the world can’t transition to renewables without natural gas, “hitching” ourselves to natural gas is a smart and fiscally responsible thing to do.  

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Equities weaker as bond yields push higher

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au
Local and global equity markets fell this week, with Europe the exception, as rising US government bond yields continued to spook investors. 

In local stock news, the financial regulator APRA has closed its investigation into Westpac’s breaches of anti-money laundering and terror financing laws. The bank last year agreed to a $1.3 billion fine. 

News Corp has reached a multi-year agreement to provide Facebook Inc users access to news in Australia. Interestingly lawmakers in the US have raised concerns regarding Facebook’s and the other tech giant’s behaviour noting both Facebook and Google’s recent threats to cut off Australian news. 

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia said it will offer its own buy-now-pay-later service to customers from mid-year. Customers will be able to use debit and credit cards to access the service for purchases between $100 and $1,000 and pay in 4 fortnightly instalments. Interestingly, whilst providers like Afterpay charge retailers about 4% of the sale, CBA said businesses would pay no more than its standard fee (around 1%). 

The oil price fell this week on concerns regarding the demand outlook, particularly from Europe, as investors realised that the “re-opening” trade of the last 4-6 weeks actually needs some level of re-opening…
RBA governor Philip Lowe noted that whilst investors expected the official cash rate could be hiked next year and again in 2023, this was not an expectation the board shared

The number of Australians employed surged by 88,000 in February, which along with no change to the participation rate, saw the unemployment rate fall to 5.8%. Hours worked has now also made a full recovery to be back to pre-Covid levels. JobKeeper ending this month may have some impact, but we won’t see that in the data until at least June. 

Nearly 1 in 3 Australians say they’re in financial distress according to a University of Melbourne survey. Some 31% of respondents now report difficulty in paying for everyday essentials, 43% said they felt financially comfortable, whilst 46% of respondents say they’re satisfied with official measures to boost job security. 

The RBA is closely monitoring Australia’s booming housing market as prices rise and lending soars to new records. For now, both the government and the RBA are happy with house prices rising given positive flow-on effects for the economy, however, the major banks are now forecasting double-digit house price growth over the next 2 years. 

The US central bank will keep rates near zero and maintain their sizeable monthly asset purchase (ie. money printing). The bank expects the US economy to continue improving this year but plans to keep interest rates near zero until employment increases. Some members saw rate increases by the end of 2023, but the majority have no rate increases until 2024. 

US consumer sentiment improved in early March to its strongest level in a year, a key survey showed. However, retail sales dropped more than expected in February due to bitterly cold weather across the country. 

UK economic growth dropped by almost 3% in January which was smaller than widely expected in light of increased Covid restrictions. It was the largest drop since April 2020, with January’s reading 9% below the levels seen pre-Covid. January trade data showed a huge record fall in both exports and imports. 

Official data showed French final inflation rose largely in line with estimates in February, whilst investor sentiment in Germany increased by more than expected in March. Germany is doing well because the Chinese are doing well.

In good news for exports, Chinese industrial output beat expectations for January/February, with output up 35% from a year earlier. Other data showed a surge in factory and retail sector activity in the first 2 months of the year, beating expectations. 
Europe’s struggle on the vaccine front looks set to continue with AstraZeneca likely to deliver less than half as many doses as planned in the 2nd quarter. This comes after several European countries suspended their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following some adverse reactions. The number of adverse reactions were small, leading many to speculate that this was revenge for lack of supply from the Brits. Johnson & Johnson said it would aim to bring its vaccine to Europe in the 2nd half of April following recent approval. 

The US stepped up their game against China tightening restrictions on selling 5G-related goods to Chinese telecom giant Huawei. The ban is effective this week and creates a more explicit prohibition on the export of semiconductors, antennas, and batteries for Huawei 5G devices. 

Recent news flow in the USA seems to indicate that President Biden is planning the first major federal tax hike since 1993 to help pay for a “long-term economic program”. Among the moves proposed are raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, increasing income tax on “high earners”, and a possible hike in capital gains tax. Rather silly giving people cash-handouts one week to then take it back via tax later. Income hard earned by households and businesses is always best left in their hands/pockets. Raising taxes will simply discourage investment and/or encourage more investment offshore. Spend less, tax less. 

The Chinese President has warned that China will go after so-called platform (tech / media / payments) companies that have amassed data and market power, a sign its crackdown on the internet sector is just beginning. The government wants Alibaba to sell media assets, concerned by the tech giant’s influence over public opinion. These moves come after they forced Alibaba to restructure their ownership of Ant Financial, which led to the pulling of the Ant IPO.

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au

We are a Parramatta based financial planning practice, specialising in retirement planning, superannuation and investment advice.

Whether you want to start preparing for retirement or have already done so we can help you implement a personalised financial roadmap.

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Rising government bond yields cause market turbulence

Equity markets were mixed this week with the US market falling on rising inflation concerns, whilst the European market held its own and the Australian market was flat to weak. Asian markets were mixed. 

The bond market did its best to de-stabilise all other investment markets with government bond yields rising yet again on better-than-expected economic data, rising inflation concerns, and fears that central banks won’t continue their accommodative policy measures. Yes, yields should’ve moved a little higher with expected better economic outcomes, but inflation and central bank concerns are unfounded at this stage. 

Global oil prices rose after OPEC+ oil producers elected to keep production targets unchanged into April. The Saudis will extend their voluntary production cut of 1 million barrels per day. 

The Aussie dollar finished flat this week against the US dollar, but the US dollar did rise against a basket of other currencies as it found support from investors given the better growth outlook. 
The Reserve Bank of Australia left the cash rate on hold at 0.1% and maintained their other policy settings, saying they remain committed to maintaining highly supportive monetary conditions until its goals are achieved (2024 at the earliest), that is, inflation sustainably in the 2-3% band which will require significantly lower unemployment from here. Given the recent rise in bond yields, the Bank may have to increase their bond buying program (ie. money printing). 

Australian real (net of inflation) economic growth rose by 3.1% in the 4th quarter, with household consumption increasing solidly, and dwelling investment, business investment, and public spending all adding to the growth. The quarterly print came in well above expectations. Economic growth contracted by 2.4% over 2020, with the economy 1.1% below its pre-Covid peak. 

Total credit to the Australian private sector rose by a weak 0.2% January, with annual growth dipping to 1.7%. Housing credit was up 0.4% and sits 3.6% higher on the same time last year. Business credit growth contracted by 0.1% whilst personal credit fell 0.9%. 

Australian company profits fell by 8.1% in the 4th quarter as government subsidies fell away. Hardest hit were non-mining firms with profits down 14.4% whilst mining firm profits were up 11.5% assisted by stronger commodity prices. Wages and salaries rose by 1.4% in the quarter. 

Australian dwelling prices rose by 2% in February, with detached houses posting a strong 3% lift in the month. Leading indicators are pointing to further strong gains in dwelling prices. New lending for housing rose by a massive 10.4% in January, with the value of lending rising for both owner occupiers and investors. Growth in new housing lending (ex-refinancing) rose 10.5% in January, with strong growth from both owner occupiers and investors. New lending to first home buyers is up by 73.2% over the year. 

The Australian current account surplus increased to $14.5 billion in the 4th quarter. The trade surplus widened due to strong rural and hard commodity exports, with exports rising 7.9% and imports rising by a lesser 4%. It was the biggest monthly trade surplus in Australian history, coming in well ahead of economist forecasts. 

US consumer spending increased by the most in 7 months in January, but price pressures (inflation) remained muted. 

European manufacturing data produced no significant surprises with the underlying recovery on-track. UK consumer credit data was weak in January and mortgage lending was also weaker than expected, though mortgage approvals were strong. German inflation data came in on the strong side of expectations at 1.3% on the same time last year. 

A survey showed that the Eurozone economy is almost certainly in a double-dip recession as lockdowns continue to smash the services industry but hopes for a wider vaccine rollout drove optimism to a 3-year peak. 
On the virus front, concerns have risen regarding Covid-19 variants. Whilst some concern is valid (though the data to date is quite spurious), it’s fair to say the press (and some governments) are doing their best to keep us fearful. There are variants to almost every virus. We have 3 options: accept that accounting for every variant is an impossible task and move on with making our own personal risk-based assessments of how we live our lives; accept that the vaccines are broad and effective enough to cover the main strains; or repeat 2020 lockdowns each year into eternity. Some countries are still operating like we’re in the dark on Covid-19 with 10 day plus hotel quarantines (21 days in Hong Kong) for inbound travellers.  The European Union and other parts of the world are also discussing “vaccine certificates/visas” (a slippery slope) but haven’t decided on what type of “privileges” they would grant.

On the vaccine front, the US FDA approved the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine and outlined a fast-track approval process for new vaccines or booster shots to combat new strains. This is important as the technology used for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (ie. mRNA) allows for variant vaccines to be developed rather quickly, though trials and vaccine production would still be needed. The US announced that they will likely have enough vaccine doses by the end of May to vaccinate all adults. 

The US House passed the mammoth US$1.9 trillion “Covid relief bill” and it’s now slated for Senate approval. Problem is there isn’t much Covid relief in the bill…….. The vote was largely across party lines with 2 Democrats voting against the bill. The bill will provide $1,400 stimulus cheques to households, but stricter eligibility criteria will result in less household stimulus than provided under President Trump. The $15 minimum wage proposal is unlikely to pass the Senate due to parliamentary procedure requiring a super-majority vote.  
Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au
 
We are a Parramatta based financial planning practice, specialising in retirement planning, superannuation and investment advice.
Whether you want to start preparing for retirement or have already done so we can help you implement a personalised financial roadmap.
https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au/
 
General Advice Warning
The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.
 
Disclaimer
All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Rising government bond yields spooks equity investors

Local and global equity markets fell this week on concerns that potentially higher inflation in the US may force the US central bank to be less accommodative. 

Concerns about rising US inflation and optimism regarding vaccine distribution saw government bonds get dumped (ie. prices fall, yields rise) in one of the ugliest weeks for bond markets in some time. However, higher bond yields also attract buyers, especially in a low-yield environment, in addition to central banks wanting to keep yields low to ensure lower borrowing costs. 

In local stock news, Australia’s biggest fuel seller Ampol, expects market conditions to remain challenging in 2021, with travel restrictions likely to continue denting fuel demand, particularly jet fuel demand. The company reported a loss in its refining business for 2020, with the company set to decide whether it will close its last remaining refinery in Australia. 

Property developer Lendlease posted a 1st half earnings decline of 37% as covid-19 stifled building development. The company reported net profit after tax of $196 million and a loss of $7 million from property write-downs. 

Former Commonwealth Bank boss Ian Narev will take the top job of jobs website company Seek, after leading the companies Asia-Pac and Americas operations since joining 2 years ago. Current boss Andrew Bassat will take the role of executive chairman and chief executive of Seek Investments. The company reported an 8% dip in 1st half net profit. 

The oil price rose strongly this week on re-opening optimism. Saudi Arabia and Russia remain on opposite sides of the debate about crude oil output ahead of their monthly OPEC+ meeting in March. The Saudis have been constraining supply in order to get the oil price higher, with higher oil prices also being supported by increasing demand globally and short-term supply issues in Texas. 
Australian retail trade gained 0.6% in January, an improvement on the 4.1% fall in December, but still impacted by state lockdowns and restrictions. Annual growth in retail is now running at 10.7%. 

The Australian wage price index rose by 0.6% in the 4th quarter to be up 1.4% over the year. The strong headline number partly reflects the unwinding of temporary pay reductions for some workers. Private sector wages grew by 0.7% whilst wages in the public sector grew by 0.3%. 

Construction work done in the 4th quarter was weaker than expected with a fall of 0.9%. Annual growth is now running at 1.4%. 4th quarter details included building work rising by 0.6%, residential work done up 2.7%, while non-residential work fell by 2.4% to be down 4.5% over the year. 

The volume of Australian capital expenditure rose by 3% in the 4th quarter, with mining investment falling by 1.5% and non-mining investment lifted by 4.9%. Northern Territory saw the strongest lift, following by TAS, NSW, and VIC, whilst QLD recorded a fall. 

US Fed Chair Powell was sanguine about a recent jump in long-term government bond yields downplaying concerns over inflationary pressures and reiterated continued monetary support. He went on to say that the economic recovery was uneven and far from complete, adding that investors are mostly responding to an anticipated rebound as vaccine deployment curbs the spread of the virus. 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US economy was still in a deep hole and President Biden’s US$1.9 trillion relief plan should not be reduced. She also said that infrastructure works were planned to boost the economy and would be paid for by higher taxes. Not good for corporates. 

Minutes of the European central bank’s January meeting showed policymakers expressing fresh concerns over the strength of the euro currency but appeared relaxed over the recent rise in government yields. 

European central bank President Lagarde said the bank was closely monitoring rising borrowing costs (ie. bond yields), which could point towards future central bank intervention in debt markets. The US central bank is likely contemplating the same move. Both are hoping that the pace at which bond yields have recently risen starts to abate (ie. less selling pressure) and/or private investors start buying government bonds given the attractively higher yields. If the private buying is not enough, the central banks will be forced to up their bond buying programs. 
With the “green” energy push in full-flight globally, the Australian National Party has called for a $10 billion clean-energy fund to invest in coal-fired power stations……the National Party wants to explore clean coal, carbon capture, and nuclear as options to assist with the transition away from fossil fuels given we can’t transition overnight. Elsewhere, a parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry after local banks and pension funds have been restricting support for coal, saying such steps could imperil key export industries and liking it to “corporate activism”. 

Australia began their vaccine rollout this week with Prime Minister Scott Morrison receiving his first jab. The vaccinations will be made available in stages based on ranking of critical areas. There are no plans to make the vaccine compulsory in Australia but the health minister said it was critical that the community had confidence in the vaccine program. Vaccine take-up continues to be strong in the US, UK, and Israel, but appears too slow elsewhere in the world. Vaccine producer AstraZeneca told the European Union that it expects to deliver less than half the vaccines it was contracted to supply in the 2nd quarter. Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine moved closer to emergency use authorisation in the US. 

US Democrats are pushing to quickly pass President Biden’s US$1.9 trillion stimulus bill before some key deadlines. A vote in the House could occur before the week is out which would see the Senate vote next week, testing the smaller majority the Democrats have in the House post the election and the slim control they have in the Senate.  

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au

We are a Parramatta based financial planning practice, specialising in retirement planning, superannuation and investment advice.

Whether you want to start preparing for retirement or have already done so we can help you implement a personalised financial roadmap.

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Equity investors fret over US inflation fears

Both local and global equity markets were softer this week as investors fretted over potentially higher US inflation which could lead to missteps or reduced stimulus from the US central bank. 

FOMO (fear of missing out) is clearly back in vogue, partnering its closest cousin TINA (there is no alternative), with some of the strongest flows into equities not seen since the GFC, not to mention the rarefied air that technology stocks, IPOs, and cryptocurrency currently find themselves in. The conditions are there for this to continue for a while longer, but what can go up can also come down. 

In local stock news, BHP shares rose after the company reported its best 1st half profit in 7 years and declared a record interim dividend. The company expects strong Chinese demand to continue in 2021. 

National Australia Bank enjoyed a 47% increase in cash earnings during its 1st quarter trading, helped by improving economic and health outcomes in Australia and New Zealand. Westpac’s cash earnings for the same period rose 54% due to higher margins, lower expenses, and less bad debts than previously provisioned for. ANZ’s cash profit was up 54% with costs flat and all major divisions performing well through the quarter. 

Treasury Wine Estates will reorganise into 3 new divisions after its half-yearly profit plunged due to heavy Chinese tariffs on Australian wine imports. The world’s largest listed winemaker will operate under Penfolds, Treasury Premium Brands, and Treasury Americas divisions starting next financial year. The company remains confident it can reroute its luxury ranges to other markets. 

Coles share price fell sharply in contrast to a stunning set of results with total sales surging 8.1% to over $20 billion, same-store sales in supermarkets up 7.2%, and net profit rising 14.5%. The CEO did his best to talk down future expectations as people resume eating out more and working back in the office. He also cited the lack of immigration as a big concern for the supermarket sector. 

Energy prices rose sharply this week on concerns of a global supply shock as a deep freeze swept its way across the USA. This follows the cold snap Europe went through only a week or so ago. Texas experienced minus 18-degree temperatures, with minus 1-degree temperatures recorded inside people’s homes, as rolling blackouts to preserve the energy grid meant cities went without power for parts of the day. 
Australian employment rose by a solid 29,100 in January following a revised 50,000 increase in December. The result saw the unemployment rate dip to 6.4% and the underemployment rate move down to 8.1%. 

US inflation data came in below rising inflation expectations, with consumer prices up 0.3% in January. The result was above December’s increase. The 12-month inflation rate has now ticked up to 1.4%, remaining well below the US central bank’s target. 

US consumer confidence deteriorated for a 2nd consecutive month in February with consumer sentiment also falling and coming in below expectations. Consumers’ views of current conditions declined whilst their expectations regarding future conditions fell markedly. US federal government needs to figure out their priorities and states need to reopen. 

The US central bank chair said that the jobs market remains a long way from a full recovery and that monetary policy would remain very accommodative until there was substantial progress on employment and inflation. Jobless claims have been rising of late. 

4th quarter UK economic data showed a 1% rise on last quarter, coming in above the 0.5% expected, but still down 7.8% on the year which is the weakest in the major economies. 

The International Energy Agency has cut forecasts for world oil consumption in 2021 saying that the market for oil remains fragile as travel and economics remain limited by virus policy response. 
The US senate voted not to impeach former US President Donald Trump with only 7 Republican senators crossing the floor to vote with the Democrats. The process ended up being a waste of time and money, and simply distracted the government from more important matters like vaccine rollout and the economic recovery effort. The government could still bring civil proceedings but it’s unlikely to do so given the evidence produced during the impeachment hearing hurt both political parties. The 7 Republican senators who crossed the floor are already under pressure from their representatives. 

The state of Victoria entered a snap 5-day stage 4 lockdown (shutdown) following only a handful of cases. The Australian Open got a hall-pass. The claims made by the Andrews’ government and resultant overreaction clearly shows that authorities have no faith in their contact tracing and quarantine protocols even after Andrew’s claims of their “gold standard” and a “model that other states want to adopt”. He actually said that.

The US has secured additional vaccine supply from both Moderna and Pfizer, with both companies accelerating their deliveries. The US is inoculating at an average of 1.62 million doses per day. At that rate, more than 75% of the US population will be inoculated within 9 months. However, on a global level, it would take more than 5 years to inoculate that percentage of the world’s population. Herd immunity can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, neither should weighing up the risks for those under 50 years of age with little to no pre-existing conditions. 

Following our recent standoff with Google, it was Facebook’s turn to try and bully the Australian government into not proceeding with changes to its media laws. Facebook carried through on its threats to remove Australian “news” items from its network. A pretty silly move during a pandemic. It also looks like Facebook restricted other government and government related Facebook pages in order to test how much revenue it would lose if it continued down this path. The moves saw a firm rebuke from Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is standing firm.  

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au

We are a Parramatta based financial planning practice, specialising in retirement planning, superannuation and investment advice.

Whether you want to start preparing for retirement or have already done so we can help you implement a personalised financial roadmap.

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Investors focus on vaccines as US and Europe lockdown

Need help? Contact us Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice. https://www.macarthurwealth.com.au

Local and global share prices rose this week on vaccine optimism.  
In local stock news, a fresh class action has been levelled against Crown Resorts, accusing it of misleading investors over possible anti-money laundering breaches. Pressure is piling on the company. 

The Australian banking regulator said it would from January 1 remove its requirement that banks and insurers retain at least half their earnings. That means dividends can start to rise again. In other bank news, the ANZ bank CEO said that 92% of Australian home loan customers allowed deferral had resumed repayments.
 
a2 Milk shares were placed in a trading halt early Thursday morning as the company has become aware of information which may require them to revise their previously issued guidance. Speculation is that it’s another downgrade to earnings. 

The Australian dollar pushed through US76c as the US dollar continued to fall on delays to fresh fiscal stimulus and likely further stimulus from the US central bank. Putting upward pressure on the Aussie is the skyrocketing iron ore price
The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a further strengthening in employment with more than ¾ of payroll jobs lost earlier in the year regained by the end of November. Employment rose by a very strong 90,000 in November, following revised 180,400 increase in October. The unemployment rate fell to 6.8% even with the participation rate rising to its previous record high. The strength in November largely all came from full time jobs whilst hours worked rose by a strong 2.5%. 

Whilst US labour market data appears to be weakening, a key consumer sentiment survey improved more than expected in November while a gauge of inflation rose moderately. 

European leaders approved a much-needed $2.9 trillion budget and pandemic recovery package which paves the way for the start of European recovery. A large proportion of the funding will find its way to those countries hardest hit economically by Covid, possibly helping to ease north-south European divisions. A big chunk of the money has also been earmarked for climate change initiatives. 

A key Euro area data point pointed to still contractionary conditions in the economy, but the reading came in well ahead of economist expectations, boosted by German manufacturing and French services. The data pushed the EURO to its highest level against the US dollar since 2018. 
PM Scott Morrison won’t be among the world leaders making a virtual address to the United Nations Climate Action Summit. The official line was that the PM wasn’t invited to speak because he hadn’t come up with an ambitious enough pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions…….bah humbug. Another China bully tactic. Poor form from our allies who allowed it. Worth remembering that Australia is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of LNG, a “transition” energy source that will be in high demand as the world transitions to renewables over a much longer period than current over-ambitious targets. 

China has lifted restrictions on coal from all nations except Australia in the latest attack on our country’s exports. This would provide further grounds for a World Trade Organisation claim. It’s a clear attack from China considering a trade route proximity to them and the quality of our coal on the global stage. Countries like India, Japan, and South Korea will assist in taking some of our coal given increased demand, but they won’t be enough to match Chinese volumes. Apparently, China’s steel producers have called for a regulatory probe into skyrocketing iron ore prices, which sounds rather silly given they are responsible for the rising prices (in addition to lack of supply from Brazil). 

On the vaccine front, vaccines have continued to be rolled out across the UK and the US, with the US expecting to have 40 million doses available by the end of the month. Europe has yet to approve any vaccine. Australia’s supply, whilst high, needs to be re-evaluated following the failed University of Queensland vaccine (was never going to succeed) and higher efficacy for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over AstraZeneca’s (which we’ve bought the most of). PM Morrison maintains that Australia hopes to distribute vaccines starting in March. Meanwhile deaths in the US continue to rise whilst the Germans have gone into full lockdown (with the Brits and Dutch not far behind) and the South Koreans have warned of potential tighter restrictions. 

The next round of much needed US fiscal stimulus looks no closer to agreement after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican senators won’t support US$160 billion in state and local funds as part of the potential trade-off. It’s important to note that the US$160 billion is being earmarked for rebuild / repairs in Democrat states and cities that were damaged by violent protests. Republicans want to ensure that all stimulus goes to households and businesses, and that small businesses are protected from any Covid claims. 

A no-trade deal Brexit remains a possible outcome on December 31 after UK PM Boris Johnson’s appeal to European leaders fell on deaf ears. Hardly surprising given the Brits unrealistic expectations that they could divorce themselves from the EU and still retain the benefits that come from being part of the EU. Trade negotiations will continue right up until December 31 in the hope of a deal. 

Joe Biden is now officially the President-Elect of the USA after the state electors submitted enough votes to get him passed the 270 required to become the President in January. Legal challenges remain. The only thing outstanding now is the US Senate, where control will be decided by the Georgia run-off on January 5 where 2 Senate seats are up for grabs. A Republican hold in one or both seats would see the Republicans hold the Senate, whilst a swing of both seats to the Democrats would see the Senate tied at 50-50 which would give the Vice President the tie-breaking vote when required.  

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Investors buoyed by more positive vaccine news

Local and global equity markets moved higher this week buoyed by more positive vaccine news as another vaccine showed positive phase 3 results whilst another provider asked for emergency use authorisation. 

In local stock news, the bank regulator wound back its requirement that the Commonwealth Bank carry an extra $1 billion in risk capital by $500 million. The move comes after the regulator was satisfied the bank had made progress in addressing concerns about governance. 

Bega Cheese raised equity this week to fund their acquisition of Lion Diary & Drinks for $534 million, which will see Bega pick up milk, cream, juice, and yoghurt brands such as Dairy Farmers, Pura, and Yoplait. A little over $400 million of the purchase price will be raised via new equity. 

The oil price rose this week as positive vaccine news pointed to potential increase in demand whilst speculation rose that OPEC may look to make further supply reductions. 
Australian retail trade showed a 1.6% lift in October with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting a strong 5.2% uplift in trade in Victoria as restrictions began to subside. Retail trade is up 7.3% compared to a year ago. 

178,800 jobs were added in October according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, versus market expectations of a 40,000 fall in response to the tapering of JobKeeper payments. The latest employment number has reduced the total jobs lost this year from 917,000 to around 195,000. The unemployment rate did rise to 7% due to a sharp increase in people looking for work. A good set of numbers and hopeful momentum can be maintained. However, next year might be a different story as we transition off JobKeeper and JobSeeker entirely. 

According to new Reserve Bank of Australia modelling, overall employment losses would have been twice as large over the 1st half of the year without JobKeeper, but the scheme only saved the jobs of 20% of the individuals it covered which prevented the termination of at least 700,000 additional workers from April to July. Around 650,000 people did become unemployed during that period. 3.5 million individuals were covered by the program at its peak. 

Australian construction work completed in the 3rd quarter fell by 2.6%, against expectations of a 1.9% decline, with residential completions falling by 1% and non-residential falling by 3.4%. Engineering work fell by 3.3% in the same quarter. Residential completions now sit about 18% below the peak in mid-2018. Residential construction was mixed with a 1.1% rise in new homes but a 6.2% fall in apartments, whilst renovation activity was up 5.1% in the quarter. 

The volume of capital expenditure spending in Australia fell by 3% in the 3rd quarter. Mining and non-mining investment both fell. Spending intentions were largely unchanged from three months ago which would imply a 4.9% fall over the year. Mining investment intentions were downgraded whilst non-mining investment intentions were upgraded. Non-mining investment is now down more than 18% over the past year. 

US Treasury and the US central bank went at it this week after the Treasury sent the bank a list of funds to be repaid, that would allow Congress to re-appropriate US$455 billion that was earmarked for central bank support programs. It makes sense they’ve called the money back in given the emergency levels of March/April have passed and the government needs the money, but it removes a fairly sizable tool from the central bank’s toolkit which means less ammunition and lessens their ability to provide comfort to markets. 

Eurozone business activity contracted sharply in November as new virus restrictions across European countries forced many companies in the regions dominant service industry to close temporarily. Manufacturing activity remained a bright spot as many factories have remained open. Data showed that the German economy grew by a record 8.5% in the 3rd quarter.
On the vaccine front, the AstraZeneca / Oxford University vaccine showed positive phase 3 results, providing a 3rd viable vaccine. The vaccine showed less efficacy (70%) than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but interestingly showed very high efficacy when the 1st dose of the vaccine was halved. Importantly, this vaccine can be stored in normal refrigeration, production can be ramped up quicker, and will cost significantly less than the other 2 vaccines. Pfizer has applied to the US FDA for emergency use authorisation of its vaccine. 

Australian coal worth more than $700 million is being held up at Chinese ports because of “apparent” problems with environmental standards. Odd considering we have some of the cleanest coal in the world. Dozens of bulk carriers have been stuck off the Chinese coast for months due to “safety and quality” inspections aimed at Australian exports. 

The NSW-Victorian border opened this week with flights between the states also resuming, whilst Queensland is set to open its border to NSW residents on 1 December. NSW is now the only state open to people from all states and territories. A reduction in federal funding would likely see all other states open their borders. 

A range of pandemic aid programs in the US are set to expire in the new year, leaving millions of Americans without government support. Considering the jobless rate is still very high in the US and some states have been increasing Covid restrictions, a new set of stimulus can’t come fast enough for many Americans, absent a full opening of the economy (ie. no Covid restrictions). 

The US election result remains undecided whilst legal challenges continue. This week we saw additional legal challenges from people and organisations other than team Trump claiming fraud and that election officials didn’t follow the law, whilst at the same time we saw some state election officials confirm the results of their elections. Joe Biden has begun earmarking people for certain roles giving some insights into what a Biden administration may look like. A department of the US government has released funding to support a potential presidential transition.  

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General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Vaccine news puts a rocket under Value stocks

Local and most global equity markets rose whilst the US equity market looked likely to finish flat for the week, as the positive vaccine news saw investors rotate into more virus and economically exposed companies.
 
In local news, Macquarie Group reported a 32% fall in half year profit due to $447 million in credit and write-down charges due to the impact of the virus. 

Commonwealth Bank announced that its cash profits for the first quarter have fallen 16% on the same time last year but said that growth in its lending divisions was helping to slowly offset the impacts of Covid-19. 

Wesfarmers reported that Bunnings saw a 25% increase in sales in the four months to October than it did for the same period last year. Officeworks sales were up more than 23%, whilst Kmart was up 3% and Target fell 2%. 

Telstra will undergo is biggest restructure in 24 years, splitting its business into 3 entities. Long overdue. The 3 divisions will include their infrastructure assets, mobile towers, and the retail business. 
The Reserve Bank of Australia has upgraded their Australian economic outlook, with their central scenario seeing the economy contract by 4% this year before expanding by 2% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. The Bank has also lowered their unemployment forecasts whilst maintaining their inflation forecasts. 

New figures show the Australian services industry expanding for the first time since November 2019 as government stimulus and improved confidence leads to an increase in sales, new orders, and deliveries. 

The cost of state border closures and lockdowns is becoming clearer with the South Australian government announcing it will spend big to revive its economy, with $4 billion allocated to protect businesses and jobs and the state also hit by a $1.3 billion cut to GST returns, which will likely result in a state budget deficit of $2.6 billion. Northern Territory’s budget revealed a $2.45 billion deficit, with forecasts it will likely take almost 10 years to balance the books. 

Australian consumer sentiment showed another solid rise of 2.6% in November after a strong lift in October. Confidence around current conditions and expected conditions continued to lift. 

A key Australian business survey indicates an improvement in both confidence and conditions in October. Confidence rose stronger than conditions, with confidence levels the highest since May 2019. Trading and profitability conditions have recovered strongly, but forward orders and export sales remain weak. The results also suggest soft employment growth ahead. 

The European Union negotiators reached a deal on the region’s long-term spending plans, moving a step closer to finalising its landmark 1.8 trillion EURO budget stimulus package. If wrapped up now, it will be operational next which will help with the recovery. 

The European Central Bank President has largely confirmed another big stimulus package at its next meeting in December, with a focus on emergency bond purchases and long-term loans. Rate cuts are highly unlikely, considering the rate is already negative and preference to move it back to 0% over time. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the Communist Party’s central committee that China’s economy could double in size by 2035, which implies an average annual growth rate between 4.7-5.0%. This is substantially less than in recent decades, but still an incredible growth rate if achieved. 
Drug company Pfizer announced that their phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine result was positive reporting 90% effectiveness (versus 40-70% for the flu vax), which is significantly higher than expected. However, there’s some uncertainty regarding how long it would maintain effectiveness. Frontline workers will likely get the vaccine before the end of the year, with broader availability from Q1 2021. It’s likely that those very young and very old won’t get the vaccine in the first instance due to safety concerns (i.e. broader safety data required). 

The Australian Government has secured two more vaccines, bringing their investment program to $3.2 billion across 4 vaccines, including Pfizer/BioNTech, Novavax, University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, and University of Queensland/CSL. Hedging bets makes plenty of sense at this stage considering the speed at which these vaccines have been produced and considering their importance in light of suppression being the chosen health policy path. 

Virus cases continued to rise across Europe and the US with a subsequent response of increased restrictions on concerns regarding potential hospital capacity. At the same time, death rates haven’t seen a subsequent rise. Given available therapeutics and earlier learnings, hospital overloading shouldn’t become a problem. Protests against restrictions and containment have also broken out across Europe. 

The US election results remain unconfirmed as counting has yet to be completed in many areas whilst President Trump and his lawyers launch legal challenges in no less than 4 states. The state of Georgia, which has Biden leading by a small margin, will soon start recounting votes by hand. There’s roughly another 3-4 weeks for legal challenges to play out. The state of Georgia will also need to re-vote for their Senators given neither senate seat candidates finished with a 50% majority. Voting closes on the 5th January, so we won’t know the make up of the US Senate until then. It’s likely we end up with Republican controlled Senate which largely means status quo for US domestic policy. At this stage, markets appear favourable to that outcome (i.e. the less change, the better). 

The diplomatic spat between Australia and China appears to have gotten worse this week with a blacklist, apparently delivered verbally to commodities traders, including coal, barley, copper, sugar, timber, wine, and lobster. Iron ore and natural gas have not been targeted as these are essential for China’s recovery efforts. 

Brexit risks are rising as the UK and the EU are still are loggerheads with deadlines looming for a trade agreement and formal exit. Without an agreement, a disorderly exit would ensue. UK PM Johnson had vowed to push ahead with a plan to re-write the agreement which would breach international law. However, the upper house of UK parliament has rejected these plans, putting the onus and pressure back on the PM.  

General Advice Warning
The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer
All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Investors unfazed by uncertain US election result

Local and global equity markets rose this week, with investors seemingly comfortable with undecided US election outcome. 

3rd quarter company earnings season moved past the halfway market, with more than 86% of US companies and 74% of European companies topping estimates

In local stock news, ResMed’s first quarter sales were up 10%, supported by ventilator and mask production for Covid-19. Net operating profit increased 27%. Sleep apnoea machines and new patients remain a little soft given lockdowns. 

Westpac reported a 62% fall in full year cash earnings to $2.6 billion for the 12 months to end of September. The final dividend of 31 cents per share was the maximum allowed by the regulator.

National Australia Bank reported $3.7 billion in cash earnings for the full year, a fall of more than 36% on the same time last year. Large notable items of $1.8 billion hurt, of which $1 billion related to Covid challenges. 

Woolworths food sales jumped almost 13% in the 1st quarter of the financial year, with sales totalling $12 billion, no doubt supported by the Ooshie collectables and lockdown in Victoria. 

The Aussie dollar rose this week against the US dollar, as the US dollar saw weakness stemming from the US election. 
The Reserve Bank of Australia announced significant stimulus at their November meeting including a range of measures. The cash rate was cut to 0.10% whilst the Bank launched their first ever quantitative easing program which will see them buy $100 billion of government bonds over the next 6 months. The Bank also made clear that they won’t be lifting the cash rate for some time. 

Australian credit growth rose slightly in September, to be up by 2% for the year, supported by rising owner-occupier housing credit. Both personal and business credit fell in the month, with personal credit down more than 12% over the year. 

Australia’s manufacturing sector has seen a marked improvement with a key index showing a large increase in October, pushing the sector into expansionary territory. 

Australian dwelling prices rose by 0.2% in October across the 8 capital cities combined, the first increase since April, to be up 3.7% over the year. Melbourne lagged, and has now fallen 5.6% since March. 

New lending for Australian housing rose by almost 6% in September and is up more than 25% over the year, helped by lower borrowing rates and significant incentives for first home buyers. 

The value of Australian retail trade fell by 1.1% in September, but still remains at an elevated level. Key drivers of the fall were food and household goods. The volume of retail trade bounced by 6.5% in the 3rd quarter following the 3.5% fall in the previous quarter. There was a strong rebound in spending on clothing and eating out in the 3rd quarter. 

The number of building approvals also rose strongly, up more than 15% in September to be 8.8% higher for the year. The gains came from both private houses and private multi-unit approvals. Over the past year, approvals for private houses are now up over 20% while multi-unit approvals remain lower by 12%. Non-residential approvals remain weak, falling more than 36% in September to be 25% lower over the past year. 

Australia’s trade balance recorded a surplus of $5.63 billion in September, with exports rising by 4% whilst imports fell by 6%. Exports will be impacted in the period ahead due to the increase trade tensions with China, whilst imports remain weak as the economic recovery has yet to build any momentum. 

The European Central Bank all but confirmed that are likely to provide additional stimulus at their December meeting considering Europe’s 2nd virus wave has resulted in more lockdowns and damaged the economic recovery. 
The US election is much closer than many expected, particularly the polls, with a result likely some time away considering how much voting was done via post and legal challenges from President Trump and his legal team. Right now, it’s too close to call, but betting agencies and political pundits have a likely Biden presidential victory with the Republicans holding control of the Senate. This would mean no US tax increases, no significant changes in legislation, but also no big fiscal stimulus which might entice the US central bank to provide further support. 

The Chinese government went after more Australian exports with timber, barley, and rock lobsters now caught in the crosshairs. The federal agricultural minister confirmed that China has suspended exports of Australian logs from Queensland and barley from another grain producer. 

European countries continue to increase restrictions with Britain, Spain, Austria, France, and Germany at or close to full lockdown. British PM Boris Johnson again under pressure, this time from within his own party, who are largely against lockdown and want to ensure any restrictions are only in place for a short period of time. 

The UK and European Union officials are apparently nearing a solution to break the 8-month deadlock to achieve a trade deal. The deadline for the trade deal remains mid-November. 

The Chinese government pulled the plug on the record $35 billion IPO of Ant Group, the Chinese fintech arm of Alibaba. Ant Group also suspended a Hong Kong IPO until the issue is resolved. It looks like the Chinese government might be punishing Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma for talking out of turn in relation to the country’s financial system.  

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

Equity markets slide as virus cases rise

MARKETS
Local and global equity markets weakened this week as the US failed to pass any new stimulus and rising virus cases in Europe saw significantly increased restrictions. 

In local stock news, Rio Tinto’s September quarter iron ore production improved to be slightly below the same period last year as staff returned to pre-virus work rosters. Production year to date is running slightly ahead of the same time last year. BHP posted a 7.2% rise in iron ore production in the quarter, supported by strong demand from China. 

Westpac Bank said it would sell its 10.7% stake in Zip Co whilst also confirming a court has approved its $1.3 billion fine for breaching anti-money laundering rules. 

The Aussie dollar had a mixed week, falling early in the week on increased likelihood of RBA stimulus at the November meeting, but then rising late in the week on the back of some strong economic data out of China. 

ECONOMIC

Preliminary estimates have Australian retail trade falling by 1.5% in September. Falls were recorded in food, household goods and clothes, whilst spending on department stores and eating out rose. Consumers possibly getting thriftier in light of tapering JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments. In annual terms, retail trade sits 5.2% higher over the year. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that just under a 1/3rd of businesses reported a fall in monthly revenue in October, compared with nearly half in July, whilst 7% reported a decrease in their number of employees versus 13% three months earlier. 

A key US central bank member made comments that caught some by surprise. He indicated that there is now an open question as to whether there will be an indefinite need for the US central bank to keep buying US bonds (QE) to support market function given how big the US bond market has become, which may be too large for private investors to absorb, thus resulting in higher borrowing costs for the US government. Most people in the know expect this to be the case anyway. Maybe the member’s brazenness caught people by surprise instead. 

US retail sales in September far outstripped expectations and consumer sentiment for October has come in better than expected. However, the lack of new government stimulus may reverse some of these gains. 

Data showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week dropped more than expected to 787,000, but still remains very high, especially in the absence of any new stimulus. 

Key Chinese economic data was released with the economy growing 4.9% in the September quarter from a year earlier, which was lower than expectations for 5.2% rise. Industrial output rose strongly in September, consolidating the strong August numbers. Retail sales grew 3.3% which was significantly better than August numbers. 

POLITICS

Looks likely the Chinese government is now targeting Australia’s cotton industry with China apparently discouraging its spinning mills from using Australian imports. The development follows reports that China has suspended purchases of Australian coal. The last time they restricted Australian coal in February 2019 was due to the Australian Government’s restrictions on Huawei. 

Whilst we saw increased virus restrictions throughout Europe, as the Europeans realised that normal summer vacationing probably wasn’t the best idea, we still haven’t seen a corresponding surge in hospitalisations and/or deaths. As such, any increased restrictions should be measured, targeted, and temporary. Ireland disregarded that, locking down all non-essential businesses for 6 weeks. Interestingly, Sweden is seeing no increase in cases. We saw declining new cases closer to home with NSW & VIC lifting more restrictions whilst NSW is allowing in NZ travellers. The other states need to move towards lifting border restrictions. Pfizer, one of the companies developing a vaccine, announced it could apply for US authorisation for their vaccine in November. 

European Union leaders refused to make any further concessions over post-Brexit trading arrangements with the UK, putting pressure back on UK PM Boris Johnson to honour the terms of the withdrawal agreement signed last year. Not looking good for the UK and their economy. 

Fresh new US fiscal stimulus remains unlikely even though the Treasury Secretary told House Speaker Pelosi that President Trump would lean on his party to sign in a stimulus package if agreed to by Democrats and the Trump administration. Senate Majority Leader McConnell rejected Trump’s assertion, risking Trump’s ire, saying that he could not sell a larger package to his members but that the Senate would vote on a smaller package next week. Tough game. American people need more stimulus, and that stimulus needs to be purposeful not wasteful, all whilst politicians are seeking re-election.  

General Advice Warning

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision, it is important for you to consider these matters and to seek appropriate legal, tax, and other professional advice.

Disclaimer

All statements made on this website are made in good faith and we believe they are accurate and reliable. Macarthur Wealth Management does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information that is contained in this website, except in so far as any liability under statute cannot be excluded. Macarthur Wealth Management, its directors, employees and their representatives do not accept any liability for any error or omission on this website or for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the recipient or any other person. Unless otherwise specified, copyright of information provided on this website is owned by Macarthur Wealth Management. You may not alter or modify this information in any way, including the removal of this copyright notice.

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