Jenny O’ Connor – The Gael

Written by Dougie Maclean in 1990 (from his album The Search), performed here by violinist Jenny O’Connor.

Some of you will recognize this as the theme from Last of the Mohicans (1992).

European stocks unfazed by upcoming election

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50, reflecting the top 50 stocks in the Euro monetary area, appears unfazed by the upcoming French elections. The index has undergone a shallow retracement over the last 3 weeks, while rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates long-term buying pressure.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

Polls have proved notoriously unreliable in the last year and I will not venture to comment on the election outcome. But breakout above 3500 is likely if Le Pen fails in her bid and would signal another advance.

Cable drags Footsie lower

Pound Sterling strengthened this week on news of an early election. Despite Brexit fears the Cable, as it is commonly referred to by traders, has been strengthening for several months. Crossover of 13-week Momentum above zero suggests a primary up-trend. Breakout above 1.20 against the Euro would confirm the signal.

Pound Sterling (GBPEUR)

The FTSE 100 retreated from resistance at 7400. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate long-term buying pressure but reversal below 7100 would warn of a correction.

FTSE 100

* Target: 7400 + ( 7400 – 6700 ) = 8100

ASX 200 advance slows as iron ore falls

Iron ore found support at $60.

Iron ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index has taken some encouragement from the rally, with support at 2850. But bear rallies are normally short in duration and reverse sharply.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 200 advance has slowed after the recent sell-off in the resources sector. But rising Twiggs Money Flow still signals buying pressure and another attempt at 6000 seems likely.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5800 + ( 5800 – 5600 ) = 6000

ASX 300 Banks, the largest sector in the broad index, is consolidating above its new support level at 9000. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of medium-term selling pressure. Reversal below 8900 is unlikely but would warn of a correction.

ASX 300 Banks

Bank exposure to residential mortgages is the Achilles heel of the Australian economy and APRA is likely to keep the pressure on banks to raise lending standards and increase capital reserves, which would lower return on equity.

Gold advance likely

The Dollar Index continues to test support at 100 despite strengthening interest rates. China’s sell-off of foreign reserves to support the Yuan may be contributing to this weakness.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold is consolidating below resistance at $1300/ounce. A more confrontational US foreign policy is contributing to global uncertainty and demand for precious metals.

Spot Gold

Breakout above $1300 is likely and would signal a test of the 2016 high at $1375.

China dips while India strengthens

Shanghai’s Composite Index is experiencing selling pressure, with Twiggs Money Flow crossing below zero for the first time since 2014. Reversal below 3100 would warn of a primary down-trend.

Shanghai Composite Index

* Target medium-term: May 2016 low of 2800

India’s Sensex is consolidating in a bullish narrow band below major resistance at 30000. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of 32000*.

Sensex Index

* Target medium-term: 29000 + ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 32000

Television networks resist gambling ad ban

From Lucy Battersby at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is reportedly considering a ban on gambling ads screening from the start to finish of sporting events.

Television networks are increasingly reliant on revenue from the gambling industry, which spent nearly $150 million on wagering and lottery advertisements in 2016, an increase of 19 per cent on 2015.

Networks have been screaming for cuts to their licence fees in the May federal budget, to make up for declining ad revenue….

Threats by networks to shut down free-to-air sports should be taken with a pinch of salt. Gambling has recently been a major advertiser but the networks survived for many years without them.

Buy out of advertising — as in the 1987 replacement of tobacco advertising with health messages — seems a good option compared to cutting license fees. Positive health and related (especially alcohol and gambling) messages can help shape better attitudes in society, with long-term benefits from lower medical and welfare costs.

Source: Television networks warn gambling ad ban may shut down free-to-air sports

Federal budget 2017: The next boom is under way – before another bust

From Michael Pascoe:

A Caterpillar and Komatsu cavalry is arriving just in time to save the next two federal budgets from the effects of slowing residential building approvals, solving one of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s fiscal dilemmas. National spending on transport infrastructure is in the process of soaring 73 per cent from last financial year to 2018-19, according to industry research company Macromonitor.

Spending on road and rail hit a cyclical low of about $19 billion in 2015-16. In constant dollars, the cycle is expected to peak at $33 billion in 2018-19. That spending would more than cover a 10 per cent decline from last year’s $63 billion worth of new residential building….

Increased infrastructure spending is welcome but former RBA governor’s comments on setting up a proper process of infrastructure planning and selection [see link below] highlight the negative boom-bust mentality of government focused on the election cycle.

Source: Federal budget 2017: The next boom is under way – before another bust

IMF predicts Australian GDP rise but iron ore drops

From Latika Bourke at Sydney Morning Herald:

Australian economy to boom as unemployment drops, IMF

…The IMF predicts Australia’s economy will grow by 3.1 per cent in 2017 and 3 per cent in 2018. This is better than the most recent forecast by the Australian Treasury and released by the Australian government in December last year, which predicted GDP would “pick up to 2¾ per cent in 2017-18 as the detraction from mining investment eases.”

Broad projections like those of the IMF offer little comfort. The very next headline warns of falling iron ore prices:

From Timothy Moore at The Age:

Spot iron ore extends retreat, sliding another 4.6pc

The spot price of iron ore now has fallen one-third from its February peak, as the slide into a bear market turns into an accelerating rout.

At its Tuesday fix, ore with 62 per cent iron content slid $US3.05, or 4.6 per cent, to $US63.20 a tonne, according to Metal Bulletin. The price has tumbled more than 20 per cent so far this month….

Breach of the rising trendline warns that spot iron ore is likely to test primary support at 50. Reversal of 13-week Twiggs Momentum below zero warns of a primary down-trend.

Iron Ore Spot Price

Falling resources stocks are dragging the ASX 200 lower. The up-trend is still intact but expect strong resistance at 6000. Reversal below 5680 would signal reversal to a down-trend.

ASX 200

European advance continues

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50, reflecting the top 50 stocks in the Euro monetary area, is consolidating in a narrow band below 3500. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates strong buying pressure. Breakout above 3500 is likely and would signal another advance.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

The FTSE 100 is consolidating in a narrow range below 7400. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate strong buying pressure. Breakout above 7400 is likely and would offer a long-term target of 8000*.

FTSE 100

* Target: 7400 + ( 7400 – 6700 ) = 8100

Falling iron ore weighs on Resources stocks

Iron ore broke support at 70. Follow-through below the rising trendline would warn that the up-trend is weakening.

Iron Ore

Australian resources stocks, represented here by the ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index [$XMM], reflect strong selling pressure with a bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow. Follow-through below 2850 would warn of a (primary) reversal.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index

Gold surges on North Korea fears

The Dollar Index is testing support at 100 on fears of further escalation in the stand-off with North Korea.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold broke resistance at $1260/ounce, offering an immediate target of $1300. Recovery of 13-week Twiggs Momentum above zero signals resumption of the primary up-trend.

Spot Gold

No Plan? No Strategy? No Problem! Syria and Trump’s Russia Policy

Michael Kofman is an Analyst at CNA Corporation and a Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute:

….Past American attempts at coercive diplomacy with Russia have typically lacked actual coercion, and a theory of how to gain leverage over Moscow. It will be rather startling if 59 cruise missiles turn out to be the answer to this problem. Thankfully, the previous administration tested a lot of theories that didn’t work, from empty threats at the United Nations, to disproven assumptions on what influences Russian behavior, to narratives about quagmires. It would be best for Trump’s White House not to set us on this journey, mounted on that very same broken wheel (or one just as broken in a different way).

In a contest of wills, Trump needs a plan to establish coercive credibility rather than hoping to scare the Russians with expensive fireworks. The number one mistake previous administrations made with Moscow is that, rather than deal with the Russia that is, they all imagined a Russia that suited them more, and then tried to have relations with that imaginary country.

The reality is, this administration’s only current leverage with Russia is the notion inside the Kremlin that a cooperative agenda with the United States is still possible. That’s a dubious proposition which offers the U.S. some advantages. Russia still hopes that there are carrots the United States might offer, or at the least it could get respite in the current confrontation and consolidate gains. If the administration is able to drag out this perception, rather than demonstrating that the White House is rapidly reverting to classical archetypes that Moscow anticipates, then there is an opportunity to obtain concessions.

Given that a cooperative agenda between the United States and Russia is well-nigh impossible, where does that leave us?

Source: No Plan? No Strategy? No Problem! Syria and Why Trump’s Russia Policy Is Off to a Rough Start

Australia: Financial Stability | RBA

Extract from the latest Financial Stability Review by the RBA:

….In Australia, vulnerabilities related to household debt and the housing market more generally have increased, though the nature of the risks differs across the country. Household indebtedness has continued to rise and some riskier types of borrowing, such as interest-only lending, remain prevalent. Investor activity and housing price growth have picked up strongly in Sydney and Melbourne. A large pipeline of new supply is weighing on apartment prices and rents in Brisbane, while housing market conditions remain weak in Perth. Nonetheless, indicators of household financial stress currently remain contained and low interest rates are supporting households’ ability to service their debt and build repayment buffers.

The Council of Financial Regulators (CFR) has been monitoring and evaluating the risks to household balance sheets, focusing in particular on interest-only and high loan-to-valuation lending, investor credit growth and lending standards. In an environment of heightened risks, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has recently taken additional supervisory measures to reinforce sound residential mortgage lending practices. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has also announced further steps to ensure that interest-only loans are appropriate for borrowers’ circumstances and that remediation can be provided to borrowers who suffer financial distress as a consequence of past poor lending practices. The CFR will continue to monitor developments carefully and consider further measures if necessary.

Conditions in non-residential commercial property markets have continued to strengthen in Melbourne and Sydney, while in Brisbane and Perth high vacancy rates and declining rents remain a challenge. Vulnerabilities in other non-financial businesses generally appear low. Listed corporations’ profits are in line with their average of recent years and indicators of stress among businesses are well contained, with the exception of regions with large exposures to the mining sector. For many mining businesses conditions have improved as higher commodity prices have contributed to increased earnings, though the outlook for commodity prices remains uncertain.

Australian banks remain well placed to manage these various challenges. Profitability has moderated in recent years but remains high by international standards and asset performance is strong. Australian banks have continued to reduce exposures to low-return assets and are building more resilient liquidity structures, partly in response to regulatory requirements. Capital
ratios have risen substantially in recent years and are expected to increase further once APRA finalises its framework to ensure that banks are ‘unquestionably strong.’

Risks within the non-bank financial sector are manageable. At this stage, the shadow banking sector poses only limited risk to financial stability due to its small share of the financial system and minimal linkages with the regulated sector, though the regulators are monitoring this sector carefully. Similarly, financial stability risks stemming from the superannuation sector remain low.

While the insurance sector continues to face a range of challenges, profitability has increased of late and the sector remains well capitalised.

International regulatory efforts have continued to focus on core post-crisis reforms, such as addressing ‘too big to fail’, as well as new areas, such as the asset management industry and financial technology. While the goal of completing the Basel III reforms by end 2016 was not met, discussions are ongoing to try to finalise an agreement soon. Domestically, APRA is continuing its focus on the risk culture in prudentially regulated institutions and will review compensation policies and practices to ensure these are prudent.

Reading between the lines:

  • household debt is too high
  • apartments are in over-supply and prices are falling
  • we have to maintain record-low interest rates to support the housing bubble
  • APRA is “taking steps” to slow debt growth but also has to be careful not to upset the housing bubble
  • the Basel committee has been dragging its feet on new regulatory guidelines and we cannot afford to wait any longer

Source: RBA Financial Stability Review PDF (2.4Mb)

Consider Republicans’ tax plan | Ross Garnaut

From Patrick Hatch:

“Our existing tax base for the corporate income tax is in deep trouble,” Professor Garnaut told the Melbourne Economic Forum on Tuesday. “It’s subject to egregious avoidance or evasions, with two of the main instruments of avoidance being arbitrary use of interest on debt to reduce taxable income and, more importantly, arbitrary use of payment for import of services as deductions.

“You have a lot of what must be fundamentally some of the most profitable enterprises in Australia paying no corporate income tax.

“Google and Microsoft and Uber, they manage to generate very large sales in Australia … but somehow make no profit from it because of payment for intellectual property, payments for services.”

Cutting rates while broadening the base is a step in the right direction. But the broader base has to offset the rate cut, so that tax revenues are not depleted.

One of the oldest tricks in the tax avoidance industry is to set up a structure where A receives a deduction for an expense while the receiving party (B) is either tax exempt or is resident in a tax haven, and does not pay tax on the income. The effect is to substantially reduce tax payable by A.

Disallowing all deductions would unfairly penalize legitimate transactions. A simpler method would be to require A to collect a withholding tax on the payment to B (or B provides a tax file number showing that the income will be taxed in Australia) else the deduction by A will be disallowed.

Source: Consider Republicans’ tax plan, says economist Ross Garnaut

Australia: Warning signs of a contraction

Australia faces shrinking inflationary pressures.

Inflation

Wage growth is falling.

Wage Price Index

Credit growth is shrinking.

Inflation

Growth of currency in circulation is also slowing. The fall below 5% warns of a contraction.

Currency in Circulation: Growth

One piece of good news is that Chinese monetary policy seems to be easing. After a sharp contraction of M1 money stock growth in January, February shows a partial recovery. Collapse of the Chinese property bubble may be deferred a while longer.

China M1 Money Stock

Which is good news for iron ore exporters. At least in the short-term.

Inflation surges

Inflation is rising, with CPI climbing steeply above the Fed’s 2% target. But core CPI excluding energy and food remains stable.

Consumer Price Index

Job gains were the lowest since May 2016.

Job Gains

But the unemployment rate fell to a low 4.5%.

Unemployment

Hourly wage rate growth has eased below 2.5%, suggesting that underlying inflationary pressures are contained.

Average Hourly Earnings Growth

The Fed is unlikely to accelerate its normalization of interest rates unless we see a surge in core inflation and/or hourly earnings growth.

Why we need to worry about the level of Australian household debt

From Elizabeth Knight:

The balance sheets of Australian households with a mortgage are dangerously exposed to any fall in house prices.

It isn’t just that household debt relative to disposable incomes has reached a record high of 189 per cent, it’s that households’ ability to service that debt is potentially a ticking time bomb…..

A recent Digital Finance Analytics survey found that of the 3.1 million mortgaged households, an estimated 669,000 are now experiencing mortgage stress.

“This is a 1.5 per cent rise from the previous month and maintains the trends we have observed in the past 12 months,” it found. “The rise can be traced to continued static incomes, rising costs of living, and more underemployment; whilst mortgage interest rates have risen thanks to out-of-cycle adjustments by the banks and bigger mortgages thanks to rising home prices.”

Source: Why we need to worry about the level of Australian household debt