Weekly Market Wrap - 12th October 2018


Investment markets and key developments over the past week

Share markets fell sharply over the last week led by the US share market primarily on the back of worries about rising interest rates and bond yields and the deteriorating US/China relationship. Bond yields generally declined though reflecting safe haven demand which also benefitted the gold price. Iron ore prices rose which is good for Australia, but the oil price fell. A fall in the US dollar saw the Australian dollar push back above $US0.71.

Its back – shares hit by another bout of volatility with likely more to go even though its unlikely to be the start of a major bear market. Every so often shares go through rough patches. We saw this most recently in February on the back of US inflation and interest rate concerns which saw US shares fall 10% and Australian shares down 6%. Shares managed to get through the seasonably weak months of August and September surprisingly well (except in Australia) but the worry list has pulled them back down again. So far shares are down around 7% from recent highs. Given the ongoing worries around the Fed, inflation and bond yields, threats to tech stocks, the intensifying US/China conflict, rising oil prices, problems in the emerging world, the upcoming US mid-term elections, risks around President Trump and the Mueller inquiry and tensions in the Eurozone regarding the Italian budget, further weakness is likely. And given the usual global contagion most major share markets including the Australian share market will be affected. However, we doubt it’s the start of a major bear market because history tells us that they invariably require a US recession and with US monetary conditions still far from tight, fiscal stimulus still impacting and no signs of the excess (in terms of overinvestment, debt growth, etc) that normally precedes a recession, a US recession still looks a long way off and this in turn suggests that the trend in earnings and hence share markets is likely to remain up beyond the near term pull back.

Jair Bolsonaro’s strong showing in the first round of the Brazilian presidential election points to a likely victory in the final round which would be positive for Brazilian assets in the short term but maybe not in the long term. A right-wing Bolsonaro presidency and a right-wing Congress as also appears likely would probably boost business confidence and allow pro-business policies like corporate tax cuts and reduced regulation. But as a populist he is unlikely to do much about Brazil’s high public debt and unsustainable pension system. Bolsonaro’s anti-democratic stance is also seen as a concern. So, while there may be a short-term boost for Brazil, long term problems are likely to remain.

Major global economic events and implications

US economic activity data was light on, but small business optimism remained around historic highs in September with employee compensation also very strong and jobless claims remain ultra-low. Meanwhile, producer price and consumer price inflation came in weaker than expected in September, with the core CPI stuck at 2.2% year on year and consistent with the core private consumption deflator running around 1.9% year on year which is just below the Fed’s inflation target. This is all consistent with the Fed continuing to raise rates but only gradually, ie every three months.

In Japan machine orders rose solidly and an economic conditions index held up pretty well in September given the earthquake and typhoon.

China’s Caixin services conditions PMI rose in September consistent with the official non-manufacturing PMI in indicating that services sector strength may be partly offsetting manufacturing sector softness. Meanwhile, the PBOC cut most banks required reserve ratios and a State Council meeting indicated a further step up in stimulus measures, all designed to support growth in the face of US tariff hikes.

Australian economic events and implications

Australian business and consumer confidence rose slightly in September and October respectively, but both are well down on recent highs. Meanwhile, although housing starts fell in the June quarter consistent with falling building approvals and consistent with a peaking in housing construction activity, work yet to be done is at a record high three times above where it was in 2009 and telling us that there is still a lot of supply about to hit the softening homebuyer market. Housing finance also continued to slide with commitments to both owner occupiers and investors falling. All of which is consistent with ongoing falls in home prices.

Source: ABS, AMP Capital
The RBA’s latest Financial Stability review remained positive on global conditions – but does see risks around trade and low risk premia - and remains relatively sanguine about the risks around the slowing Australian housing market and household debt. However, it does acknowledge that some existing borrowers may have difficulty refinancing and that its possible (but not probable) that tightening lending standards will worsen the housing slowdown. It is worth noting that despite all the talk about mortgage stress and foreclosures the major banks non-performing loans remain very low, although they have been rising mainly in WA.

What to watch over the next week?

In the US, September retail sales data to be released Monday is likely to show a decent gain telling us that consumer spending remains strong supported by strong employment growth, rising wealth, tax cuts and high levels of confidence. In other data, industrial production is likely to see a modest rise, job openings and hiring are likely to remain strong and the home builders conditions index (all due Tuesday) is likely to remain strong, housing starts (Wednesday) are likely to fall back after a strong gain in August and exist home sales (Friday) are likely to fall slightly. Manufacturing conditions surveys will also be released for the New York and Philadelphia regions. Meanwhile, the minutes from the Fed’s last meeting (Wednesday) will reiterate that it remains on track for gradual interest rate hikes ultimately taking the Fed Funds rate to above “neutral.” The September quarter earnings season will start to hot up with the consensus expecting profit growth of around 21% year on year thanks to strong economic conditions and tax cuts. Corporate commentary around wages and tariffs will be watched closely.

Japanese inflation data for September due Friday is likely to show a further rise in core inflation to 0.5% year on year, which is good news but still a long way from the 2% inflation target.

Chinese economic activity data will be watched closely given signs of a slowdown in response to last year’s credit tightening and US tariffs. Expect September quarter GDP data to be released Friday to slow down to 6.5% year on year (from 6.7% in the June quarter), industrial production growth for September to slow to 5.9% year on year but retail sales growth to hold at 9% and investment growth to pick up slightly to 5.5%. Meanwhile, inflation data to be released on Tuesday is likely to show a fall in producer price inflation to 3.6% year on year but a rise in consumer price inflation to 2.5%.

In Australia, expect September labour market data due Thursday to show employment growth slowing to a gain of 10,000 after a surprise 44,000 gain in August but with unemployment remaining flat at 5.3%. Meanwhile, the minutes from the last RBA board meeting (Tuesday) are likely to show the RBA still expecting the next move in rates to be up but seeing no case to move now and the by-election for the seat of Wentworth will be watched closely in regard to the Government’s narrow parliamentary majority.

Outlook for markets

We continue to see the trend in shares remaining up as global growth remains solid helping drive good earnings growth and monetary policy remains easy. However, the risk of a further short-term correction is high given the threats around trade, emerging market contagion, ongoing Fed rate hikes and rising bond yields, the Mueller inquiry, the US mid-term elections and Italian budget negotiations. Property price weakness and approaching election uncertainty add to the risks around Australian shares.

Low but rising yields are likely to drive low returns from bonds, with Australian bonds outperforming global bonds as the RBA holds and the Fed hikes.

Unlisted commercial property and infrastructure are still likely to benefit from the search for yield, but it is waning.

National capital city residential property prices are expected to slow further with Sydney and Melbourne property prices likely to fall another 10% or so, but Perth and Darwin property prices at or close to bottoming, and Hobart, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane seeing moderate gains.

Cash and bank deposits are likely to continue to provide poor returns, with term deposit rates running around 2.2%.

While the $A is now fallen close to our target of $US0.70 it likely still has more downside into the $US0.60s as the gap between the RBA’s cash rate and the US Fed Funds rate pushes further into negative territory as the US economy booms relative to Australia. Being short the $A remains a good hedge against things going wrong in the global economy.



Important note: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this document, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455) make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This document has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this document, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This document is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided.