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Markets buoyed by US stimulus bills

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Local and global equity markets rose strongly this week buoyed by strong company earnings results, the passage of the US infrastructure bill, and progress on the bigger budgetary bill. 

Analysts now expect 2nd quarter profit growth of 93% for the 500 largest US companies. With their quarterly reporting season almost complete, 87% of companies have beat analyst expectations, which is the highest beat on record. 

In local stock news, general insurer Suncorp improved full-year cash earnings by 42% with shareholders to receive a special dividend, whilst the company will also undertake an on-market stock buyback. 

Toll road operator Transurban revealed that the costs of the West Gate tunnel project in Melbourne have blown out by about $3.3 billion. The company reported statutory profit of $3.27 billion. Lockdowns in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne have reduced the number of cars on the road and have weighed on revenue. 

Commonwealth Bank of Australia released its 2021 financial year results reporting a $1.4 billion increase in cash profit to $8.7 billion over the last 12 months, an almost 20% increase. The bank also announced a $6 billion off-market stock buy-back. 

The gold price had fallen sharply over the last week and half before mounting somewhat of a recovery in the last few days. A stronger US dollar along with the continuing economic recovery and expectations of the US central bank paring back its stimulus program have all put downward pressure on the gold price of late. 

The iron price has continued to fall from its lofty heights following a report which said that China wants to limit steel makers’ impact on its environment, which made investors reassess their expectations for iron ore demand. 
The Reserve Bank of Australia has revised its economic growth forecast down to 4% for 2021 but has kept their forecast for unemployment at 5% for the same period. They did revise their unemployment forecast for 2022 down to 4.25% and left their inflation forecasts unchanged at 1.75% for 2022 and 2.25% for 2023. 

The negative impact of lockdowns have begun to rear their ugly head, putting aside the societal issues, as more than 15,000 home and business owners were unable to repay their loans in July. In addition, an additional 150,000 Australians became unemployed last month according to Roy Morgan. Their latest data showed the bulk of the job losses came from part-time work whilst 61,000 full-time workers also became unemployed. 619,000 workers are now looking for full-time work whilst 803,000 are looking for part-time work. 

July saw the National Australia Bank business confidence index and business conditions fall sharply, which isn’t surprising given the size and extent of lockdowns in a number of states. Australian consumer sentiment fell by more than 4% in August as consumers’ fears of unemployment rose sharply. 

US consumer prices for July rose at its slowest pace in the past 5 months as some price increases have subsided on the back of softening demand and increased supply. Even so, the July inflation number of 0.5% is still quite high, with the annual rate at 5.4%, as demand pressures and supply issues remain. 

US nonfarm payrolls increased by 943,000 jobs last month a Labor Department report showed. Economists had forecast payrolls would increase by 870,000. The report also showed strong wage gains as employers competed for scarce workers as many workers remain at home collecting overly generous unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate also dropped to a 16 month low. 

The US central bank had contrasting rhetoric from a couple of members this week with one suggesting that the US should be well past the pandemic crisis before the central bank raises rates. Another member said high inflation this year may have already met one of the bank’s benchmarks for raising rates. 

The Germans have again warned that inflation in the Euro area could pick up faster than expected and urged the European central bank not to drag out their emergency bond-buying program.   

A gauge of investor expectations for the German economy plunged to 40 from 63 points in July as fears about the impact of the delta variant gather pace. 

Chinese economic data showed exports rising by 19% in July on the same time last year, coming in just under expectations, whilst imports were up 28% on the same time last year, also coming in below expectations. 

China’s central bank has fanned expectations of further monetary policy easing, saying in its latest quarterly report that inflation pressures are controllable whilst highlighting risks to the economic growth outlook. 
The US Senate voted to progress the US$1 trillion infrastructure bill with 19 Republicans voting with Democrats to support the push. However, the Democrat leader of the House has said she will only bring the bill to a vote after the Senate passes a separate US$3.5 trillion bill which has all kinds of things in it, most of it Democrat election promises, which the Democrats will likely look to push through via a process called reconciliation (ie. without Republican support). The debt ceiling (currently at US$28.5 trillion….) with partisanship likely to make it a tough task. 

The Biden administration faced some hard truths this week as it pertains to foreign policy. A return to the Iran nuclear deal looks to be dead in the water as Iran races towards the capacity to build a nuclear bomb in light of perceived US weakness. The US will now be sending troops back into Afghanistan following an ill-advised move earlier in the year to remove US troops from the country. The country has again become a hotbed for terrorism with the Taliban carry out deadly attacks against US allies left behind. Lastly, US energy self-sufficiency is very much a thing of the past after US oil inventories got so low that President Biden had to ask OPEC+ to increase supply. US inventories are low due to increase in demand, but mainly due to government policy banning new investment in oil & gas and pipelines.  

Need advice? Contact Macarthur Wealth Management for expert financial advice in Parramatta and Sydney wide on (02) 9683 2869. www.macarthurwealth.com.au

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