The rise of mobile computing has truly been astonishing in the last 5 years since the introduction by Apple of the first iPhone in 2007.

Like the rail road industry in the US in the 1800's, that resulted in the rise of many complimentary industries, so too we see the rise of industries that are connected to the massive increase in mobile computing and e-commerce.  Facebook, Twitter, eBay are now household names that did not exist all that long ago.

While acknowledging that the late 1990's saw a share market tech boom that ended badly, we are now seeing a boom of e-commerce that is of a different quality.

Investors can choose to ignore this and focus on traditional companies, however e-commerce is likely to impact all forms of business and it's impact must be considered when making investment decisions.

By means of an example, the below chart shows the growth in smart phones in China since 2009.  Chinese e-commerce has grown over 70%pa since 2009.

Chinese Smartphone shipments

This growth theme is difficult to play from Australia given our small population by world standards.

We can report however that both Platinum Asset Management and Magellan Financial Group are both well and truly on top of developments in e-Commerce generally and more specifically in China.

This material has been provided for general information purposes and must not be construed as investment advice. This material has been prepared without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. Investors should consider obtaining professional investment advice tailored to their specific circumstances prior to making any investment decisions and should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

 

Published in Investment Advice
Friday, 04 October 2013 07:17

China - is it the next US sub-prime?

Mark Draper (GEM Capital) talks with Andrew Clifford (Chief Investment Officer - Platinum Asset Management) about the stress that the Chinese credit system is under.

Andrew provides his view on whether China is the next US sub-prime crisis waiting to happen and outlines the sectors he would avoid given what is going on in China at the present time.

Andrew manages the Platinum Asia Fund and is in an excellent position to comment on the current situation in China.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaXSOWNhUEc

Published in Investment Advice

The most important influence on the Australian economy is arguably China, given our vast exports to China.

The Chinese authorities have successfully cooled the economy down, without trashing it as can be seen by the following charts.

1tr-gdpci

3tl-chinamai3br-outputindi

 

 

Published in Australian Economy
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 20:29

Five Reasons I'm Bullish for 2013 by Alan Kohler

good times ahead optimistic yellow road sign being positive and optimism for a bright future and great time Stock Photo - 14852055

 

This article has been reproduced with permission from Alan Kohler.

I returned to work last week even more optimistic than I was before I went, and not just because I was still glowing from the Bali sun.

While I was away the market rallied 2 per cent and although it’s looking ‘toppy’ and looks due for a pullback, I think we are now in the situation where buying on the dips is the best idea. The global recovery is on and, as I explained before Christmas, money is shifting back into equities around the world.

So bearing in mind Nassim Taleb’s dictum that “the only prediction one can safely make is that those who base their business on prediction will eventually blow up”, there are five reasons I am optimistic about 2013 without exactly predicting anything: China, America, Europe, Japan and Risk.

Risk

To start with the last of those, in my view 2013 will be a 'risk-on' year. Well to be honest this started half-way through 2012 when it became clear firstly that the global economy was recovering and secondly that the European Central Bank, with German support, really would do whatever it takes to keep the euro intact. The Fed was already doing whatever it takes to get the US dollar down, and the Reserve Bank was doing whatever it takes to get the Aussie dollar down (not that that’s working yet).

All of which means the returns from cash are miserable and falling. Time to invest then, which means taking more risk, but not too much – thus, bank shares returned 25 per cent in the second half of 2012.

In my view this trend has just begun. For five years investors everywhere have been more concerned with not losing their capital than with making a return and gradually that is changing; they are moving out along the risk curve.  Obviously taking more risk means just that, and the world is not yet a safe place (is it ever?). I think the greatest danger has passed, and while deleveraging will continue to hamper growth there are many positives offsetting that.

China

Sam Walsh must be the luckiest man alive. Not that he doesn’t deserve to be chief executive of Rio Tinto – of course he does, in fact he probably should have taken over years ago (I’m sure he agrees) – but because he takes over just as China’s economy bottoms and turns around and with $14 billion in writedowns tied to Tom Albanese’s tail. All new chief executives would dream of having their troublesome assets all written off and their main customer on the improve.

The data on China that came out last week contained several positives, apart from the fact that growth, at 7.9 per cent, was better than expected. The transition towards greater consumption and less reliance on investment has continued, with consumption now accounting for 4 per cent of GDP growth in the fourth quarter, higher than gross capital formation (3.9 per cent). Growth in retail sales improved from 11.6 per cent to 12 per cent in 2012 and car sales grew 6.9 per cent (5.4 per cent in 2011). The acceleration in consumption happened because income growth, at 9.6 per cent in the cities, was greater than GDP growth for only the third time in a decade.

So the project of converting China from an export and investment driven economy to one that is based on domestic consumption is intact. Income growth is being helped by the remarkable fact that the working age population actually fell in 2012, by 3.5 million – the first such fall ever.

This brings its own challenges of course. It makes it even more imperative that the Chinese authorities reform the economy to promote the return on capital, otherwise economic growth will stall. The state owned enterprise system is deeply inefficient, as you’d expect, which has never mattered too much while the labour force has been growing so rapidly. As it declines, productivity must rise.

But while the long-term picture is clouded, it’s clear that 2013 will see China’s economy continue to accelerate, which should support the iron ore price – if not at $150 a tonne, then certainly above $120. Happy New Year Sam!

America

China is recovering and so is the United States, with housing leading the way. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index is at a six-year high and double the level of January 2011. The “prospective buyer traffic” component of the index is at the highest level since January 2006. The median house price is up 10 per cent year on year, as is the volume of sales. Residential construction has bottomed and the vacancy rate is heading down.

Thanks largely to housing, the US private sector is growing at a pretty rapid clip – about 3 per cent if the government sector is removed from GDP calculation. State and local governments are starting to join the private sector in recovery, with only the federal government continuing to shrink. Moody’s expects local and state governments in the US to expand employment by 220,000 in 2013, a huge turnaround from the previous three years of job losses.

Manufacturing has been slow to move, but that seems to be now happening as well. Industrial production expanded 0.3 per cent in December after a rise of 1 per cent in November. But the December number was held back by a fall in utilities generation: factory output jumped 0.8 per cent in December. As for this year, cheap energy is expected to produce a resurgence of US manufacturing.

There’s a lot of talk that the budget deal will create a big headwind, but that seems to be overdone. There are two main elements to the deal that will produce fiscal drag: the payroll tax increase, which will cut
GDP by about 0.7 per cent, and the spending cuts due to be implemented in March – another 0.6 per cent of GDP. That 1.3 per cent of GDP fiscal drag seems large compared to 2.2 per cent average GDP growth since 2010, but as Anatole Kaletsky points out the IMF calculates that US fiscal drag on the economy was 1.3 per cent in each of 2011 and 2012. In other words, fiscal drag in 2013 will be no greater than the previous two years.

That is, as long as the politicians don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by sending the US into default because of the debt ceiling. They have about six weeks to raise the limit, since the government will run out of money on March 1. Surely they will, although as usual it will probably be at the last minute.

Paste the below link into your web browser to read the full article.

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/markets-economy-2013-RBA-China-Rio-Tinto-US-pd20130122-478ZT?OpenDocument&src=mp

By Alan Kohler - from Business Spectator - 23rd January 2013

This material has been provided for general information purposes and must not be construed as investment advice. This material has been prepared without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. Investors should consider obtaining professional investment advice tailored to their specific circumstances prior to making any investment decisions and should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

 

 

Published in Investment Advice

The miners are big enough to play dirty

Key points

  • The mining investment boom still has another year or two to go but its peak is starting to come into sight and the best has probably been seen in terms of commodity prices.
  • While there is the risk of a timing mismatch around the end of the investment boom in 2014 and as other sectors take over in driving Australian economic growth, the eventual end of the mining investment boom should lead to more balanced Australian growth.
  • The eventual slowing of the mining boom should mean lower interest and term deposit rates, the best is over for the Australian dollar (A$) and a more balanced share market.

Introduction

Recent weeks has seen much debate and consternation in Australia as to whether the mining boom that has supposedly propelled the economy for the last decade is over. This followed the cancellation or delay of various resource investment projects including the massive Olympic Dam expansion and a fall in commodity prices over the last year.
But is it really over? And would it really be the disaster for Australia that many fear? After all, we have had years of hearing about the two-speed economy where the less resource-rich south eastern states were being left behind and it was said that the people of western Sydney were paying the price (via higher-than-otherwise interest rates and job losses) for the boom in Western Australia, so many Australians might be forgiven for thinking good riddance.

Semantics and confusion

Much of the debate about whether the mining boom is over has been characterised by confusion as to what is being referred to with some focusing on commodity prices, others on mining investment projects and others saying that technically it hasn’t even begun until mining and energy exports pick up. In broad terms the mining boom that has gripped Australia for the last decade likely has three stages.

The first stage, or Mining Boom I (MB I), began last decade and saw surging resource commodity prices driven by industrialisation in China. This resulted in a rise in Australia’s terms of trade to near record levels (see the next chart). This phase was initially good for
Australia last decade as it seemingly benefited everyone. Resource companies got paid more for what they produced, their profits surged, they employed more people, and they paid more taxes, which led to budget surpluses and allowed annual tax cuts. They paid more dividends and their share prices went up. The A$ rose but not to levels that caused huge problems for the rest of the economy. So, not only did the resources companies benefit but there was a big trickle down effect to almost everyone else. As a result the economy performed very strongly and unemployment fell below 4%.

 

The second stage, or Mining Boom II (MB II), has been characterised by a surge in mining and energy investment. This has been underway for the last few years and will take mining investment from around 4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 up to around 9% in 2013, contributing around 2 percentage points to GDP growth in each of 2011-12 and 2012-13.

 

The third stage, or Mining Boom III (MB III), will presumably come when resource exports surge on the back of all the investment.  So where are we now? In terms of the commodity price surge that characterised MB I, it’s likely that we have either seen the peak or the best is over with more constrained gains ahead:

  • Firstly, the pattern for raw material prices over the past century or so has seen roughly a 10-year secular or long-term upswing followed by a 10- to 20-year secular bear market, which can sometimes just be a move to the side.

 

The upswing is normally driven by a surge in global demand for commodities after a period of mining underinvestment. The downswings come when the pace of demand slows but the supply of commodities picks up in lagged response to the price upswing. After a 12-year bull run since 2000 this pattern would suggest that the commodity price boom may be at or near its end.

  • Global growth appears to have entered a constrained patch. Excessive debt levels in the US, Europe and Japan have constrained growth, while potential growth in China, India and Brazil looks like being 1 or 2 percentage points lower than was the case before the global financial crisis. This means slower growth in commodity demand going forward.
  • The supply of raw materials is likely to surge in the decade ahead in response to increased investment.
  • Finally, the surge in commodity prices since 2000 was given a lift by a downtrend in the US dollar from 2002 as commodity prices are mostly priced in US dollars. This has now likely largely run its course.

Taken together, this would suggest that the best of the commodity price surge since 2000, or MB I, is behind us. There are two qualifi cations though. First, after the recent short-term cyclical slump there will still be a rebound, probably into next year as global growth picks up a bit. Second, it’s way too premature to say that the surge in demand in the emerging world is over - China and India are still very poor countries with per capita income of just US$8,400 and US$3,700 respectively compared to US$40,000 in Australia suggesting plenty of catch-up potential ahead and related commodity demand.

In terms of MB II, while the cancellation of Olympic Dam and other marginal projects indicates that projects under consideration have peaked, this does not mean the mining investment boom is over. In fact it probably has another one to two years to run. Based on active projects yet to be completed there is a pipeline of around A$270 billion of work yet to be completed. Iron ore related capital spending (on mines and infrastructure) are likely to peak this fi nancial year and coal and liquid natural gas related investment is likely to peak in 2014-15, suggesting a peak in aggregate around 2014.

In other words, the boom in mining investment has 18 months or so to run before it peaks and starts to subside back to more normal levels. But what can be said though, is with the cancellation of marginal projects that were in the preliminary stage, the end is coming into sight.

Finally, MB III or the pick-up in export volumes flowing from the surge in mining investment in iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas will start to get underway around 2014-15.

Heading towards a more balanced economy

Talk of the end of the mining boom has created a bit of nervousness regarding the outlook for Australia. However, the reality is that the current stage of the mining boom focused on
mining investment has not been unambiguously good for the economy and its inevitable end should hopefully see Australia return to a more balanced economy.

It was always thought that after two or three years the surge in mining investment would settle back down as projects ran their course. Trying to do a whole lot of projects in a relatively short space of time was always fraught with the threat of excessive cost
pressures and an excessive surge in supply. We are now seeing market forces kicking in to rationalise resource projects and so the more marginal projects are being delayed. This is a good thing as it will reduce cost pressures, leave work for the future and reduce the
size of the commodity supply surge over the decade ahead thereby helping avoid a crash in commodity prices.

The cooling down of the mining investment boom should help lead to a more balanced economy. MB II has not been good for big parts of Australia. With roughly 2 percentage points of growth coming from mining investment alone it has really put a squeeze on the
rest of the economy. Housing and non-residential construction, retailing, manufacturing and tourism have all suffered under the weight of higher-than-otherwise interest rates and a surge in the A$ to 30-year highs.

What’s more the boom in mining investment has meant that the Federal Government has not seen the tax revenue surge it got last decade, so last decade’s regular tax cuts have not been possible and this has weighed on household income.
This is all evident in the Australian share market which has underperformed global shares since late 2009, with the resource sector being the worst performer over the last year as resource sector profits have fallen 15% or so.

So, the end of the mining investment boom, to the extent that it takes pressure off interest rates and the A$, should enable the parts of the economy that have been under the screw for the last few years to rebound, leading to more balanced growth. This is also likely to be augmented by a pick-up in resource export volumes equal to around 1% of GDP from around 2014-15 according to the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics.

Of course a risk is of a timing mismatch around 2014 as investment slows down with other sectors taking a while to pick up. To guard against this the Reserve Bank will clearly need to stand ready to respond with lower interest rates.

The bottom line is that the end of the mining investment boom in a year or two won’t necessarily be bad for the Australian economy and will likely see a return to more balanced growth.

Concluding comments
It’s premature to call the end of the mining boom just yet. The peak in mining investment probably won’t be seen until 2014 and thereafter actual mining production and hence exports will start to pick up. However, the best has probably been seen in terms of commodity price gains and the end of the investment boom is starting to come into sight.
While there may be the risk of slower growth as the Australian economy shifts gears away from mining investment in 2014 to mining exports, construction and other parts of the economy that have been subdued, the end of the investment boom should lead to a more balanced economy reflecting less pressure on the interest rates and the A$.
For investors there are several implications including:

  • Ongoing pressure for lower interest rates as the risk of an overheating economy subsides. This means that term deposit rates are likely to fall further in the years ahead.
  • The best has likely been seen for the A$, implying less need to hedge global shares back to Australian dollars.
  • Resources shares are currently cheap and should experience a cyclical rebound when confidence in global growth improves.
  • However, beyond a short-term bounce it’s likely that the cooling of the mining boom will allow a return to a more balanced share market with domestic cyclicals likely to perform better.

This material has been provided for general information purposes and must not be construed as investment advice. This material has been prepared without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. Investors should consider obtaining professional investment advice tailored to their specific circumstances prior to making any investment decisions and should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

Published in Australian Economy