ASX 200 Narrow Line

The ASX 200 continues to consolidate in a narrow line between 5650 and 5800. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure and breach of support at 5650 would signal a primary down-trend. Follow-through below 5600 would confirm. Breakout above 5800 is unlikely but would test resistance at 6000.

ASX 200

Monthly hours worked are up 1.9% over the last 12 months. Marginally below real GDP but not something to be concerned about unless growth continues to fall.

Monthly Hours Worked - Seasonally Adjusted

Iron ore continues its extended bear market rally, suggesting that the next correction is likely to find support above the primary level at 53.

Iron Ore

ASX 300 Metals & Mining is also likely to find support above 2750. Respect of support at 3000 would signal a strong up-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index continues to warn of selling pressure, with declining Twiggs Trend Index and Money Flow below zero. Breach of support at 8500 would signal another test of primary support at 8000.

ASX 300 Banks

ASX 200 Selling Pressure

June Quarter retail sales are up 1.4% over the preceding quarter, the best June Quarter since 2012.

Retail Sales

Vehicle sales for June 2017 also reflect healthy growth over previous financial year ends.

Residential Building Approvals

Despite the good figures, one should not ignore Bill Evans’ more sombre assessment of the latest RBA forecasts:

From our perspective, a fall in housing construction; subdued consumer spending and a drag on services exports from the high Australian Dollar will constrain employment growth through 2018. The [Reserve] Bank sees things differently, expecting recently strong employment growth to persist into 2018, with the unemployment rate expected to fall to 5.4% by the end of 2019 compared to our current forecast that the unemployment rate will in fact be rising through 2018, reaching 6% by year’s end.

Two other domestic factors are important, firstly the Bank is of the view that “wage growth is expected to pick up gradually over the next few years”. That is despite convincing evidence offshore, that countries with full employment, and in the case of the US, an unemployment rate considerably below the full employment rate, are not experiencing wage pressures. This different assessment of household income growth is one of the key explanations behind our more downbeat view of the economic outlook. Secondly, we expect that the wealth effect from sharply rising house prices in NSW and Victoria is about to reverse. There is no argument that household debt levels are elevated. The prospect of very limited further increases of house prices in those markets may start to dampen consumer spending in particular by discouraging households to further subsidise consumption growth by lowering their saving rates…..

  • Falling housing construction;
  • Slow consumption growth;
  • Slow services export growth;
  • Slow employment growth;
  • Slow wages growth; and
  • Slowing house price growth.

I think Bill is right on the money, but there are always other variables like iron ore and Chinese financial markets that can disrupt even the best forecasts.

Iron ore looks set to retrace to test support between 68 and 70. Respect would signal a primary advance but I suspect that support at 60 is likely to be tested.

Iron Ore

ASX 300 Metals & Mining is also likely to retrace, but bearish divergence on Twiggs Trend Index warns of selling pressure. Respect of 2950 would signal a primary advance but a test of primary support at 2750 is as likely.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index retreated below support at 8500. Follow-through would test primary support at 8000. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, with a large peak below zero, warns of strong selling pressure.

ASX 300 Banks

Declining Twiggs Money Flow also flags strong selling pressure on the ASX 200. Breach of support at 5650 is likely and would signal a primary down-trend. Follow-through below 5600 would confirm.

ASX 200

Australia: Housing, Incomes & Growth

A quick snapshot of the Australian economy from the latest RBA chart pack.

Disposable income growth has declined to almost zero and consumption is likely to follow. Else Savings will be depleted.

Disposable Income & Consumption

Residential building approvals are slowing, most noticeably in apartments, reflecting an oversupply.

Residential Building Approvals

Housing loan approvals for owner-occupiers are rising, fueled no doubt by State first home-buyer incentives. States do not want the party, especially the flow from stamp duties, to end. But loan approvals for investors are topping after an APRA crackdown on investor mortgages, especially interest-only loans.

Housing loan approvals

The ratio of household debt to disposable income is precarious, and growing worse with each passing year.

Household debt to disposable income

House price growth continues at close to 10% a year, fueled by rising debt. When we refer to the “housing bubble” it is really a debt bubble driving housing prices. If debt growth slows so will housing prices.

House price growth

Declining business investment, as a percentage of GDP, warns of slowing economic growth in the years ahead. It is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve productivity growth without continuous new investment and technology improvement.

Business investment

Yet declining corporate bond spreads show no sign of increased lending risk.

Corporate bond spreads

Declining disposable income and consumption growth mean that voters are unlikely to be happy come next election. With each party trying to ride the populist wave, responsible economic management has taken a back seat. Throw in a housing bubble and declining business investment and the glass looks more than half-empty.

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

~ Eric Hoffer

ASX banks spoil the iron ore party

I underestimated the strength of iron ore which has now broken resistance at 70, suggesting that a bottom is forming. Strength of the latest rally indicates that the next correction is likely to find support at 60.

Iron Ore

The Resources sector responded, with the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index headed for a test of its February high at 3200 after recovering above support at 3000.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Banks have been on the receiving end, however, with the ASX 300 Banks index testing short-term support at 8500. A Twiggs Money Flow peak below zero warns of strong selling pressure. Breach of 8500 would signal another test of primary support at 8000.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 continues to form a narrow line, consolidating between 5600 and 5800. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, with a peak below zero, warns of selling pressure. Breach of support at 5600 remains likely, despite the iron ore rally, and would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 200

ASX stalls

Iron ore is testing resistance at 70. Respect would warn of another test of primary support at 53, while breakout would suggest that a bottom is forming and the next correction is likely to find support at 60.

Iron Ore

The Resources sector remains wary, with the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index retreating after a false break above resistance at 3050.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index retraced from resistance at 8800, heading for a test of the rising trendline and short-term support at 8500. Twiggs Money Flow continues to warn of selling pressure despite indications from APRA that they are unlikely to require further capital raising. Reversal below 8500 would warn of another test of primary support at 8000.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 has stalled, consolidating between 5600 and 5800 over the last two months. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, with a peak below zero, warns of selling pressure. Breach of support at 5600 is more likely, with an ensuing down-trend, but a lot depends on how iron ore behaves in the next few weeks.

ASX 200

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

~ Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Stronger dollar, weaker inflation could check rate hawks

Jens Meyer at the AFR says that a stronger Dollar and low inflation are likely to prevent the RBA from raising interest rates for some time:

Inflation is expected to remain below the Reserve Bank’s comfort zone when second-quarter CPI data is unveiled on Wednesday. Despite a jump in vegetable prices due to damage caused by Cyclone Debbie, economists predict consumer prices rose just 0.4 per cent over the second quarter and 2.2 per cent over the year.

More importantly for the central bank, ongoing softness in wages growth is tipped to have kept a cap on the less volatile core inflation, coming in at 0.5 per cent over the quarter and 1.8 per cent over the year, below the Reserve Bank’s target band of 2 to 3 per cent.

Rising iron ore prices helped the Aussie Dollar break long-term resistance at 78 cents, testing 80 against the greenback. This goes against the wishes of the RBA who need a weaker Dollar to assist exports and boost import substitution.

Aussie Dollar

But the RBA is in a cleft stick. It cannot lower rates in order to weaken the Dollar as this would encourage speculative borrowing and aggravate the property bubble. It also can’t raise rates when inflation is low, the Aussie Dollar is strong and the economy is weak. Like Mister Micawber in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, the RBA has to sit and wait in the hope that something turns up.

Source: Stronger dollar, weaker inflation could check rate hawks

ASX 200: It’s down to iron ore

Iron ore encountered resistance at $70 per ton. Another test of primary support at $53 is likely. But a failed down-swing would be a bullish sign.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining displays a similar pattern, retreating below 3000 after testing 3050. A failed down-swing that ends above 2750 would be a bullish sign, while breach of support at 2750 would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

APRA eased pressure on the big four banks to raise more capital; the ASX 300 Banks index responding with a rally to 8800. Retracement that respects support at 8500 would be a bullish sign, signaling continuation of the up-trend. The industry is still light on capital but recent remarks by APRA chair Wayne Byres indicate that they are prepared to tolerate a more gradual adjustment rather than a new round of capital raising. Dividends may still come under pressure, however, in banks with high payout ratios.

ASX 300 Banks

ASX 200 consolidation between 5600 and 5800 continues. Declining Twiggs Money Flow flags selling pressure. Breakout from the consolidation will indicate future direction but this is likely to be dominated by mining (iron ore) and the banks. If both are pulling in the same direction, the index is likely to follow. Banks are increasingly bullish but the question-mark over iron ore remains.

ASX 200

Australia: Job gains

ABS June figures reflect solid gains for the labor market. Justin Smirk at Westpac writes:

“….The annual pace of employment growth has lifted from 0.9%yr in February to 2.0%yr in May and it held that pace in June. In the year to Feb there was a 106.9k gain in employment; in the year to June this has lifted to 240.2k. The Australian labour market went through a soft patch in 2016 that was particularly pronounced through August to November when the average gain in employment per month was a paltry 2.2k. We have clearly bounced out of this soft patch and now holding a firmer trend.”

My favorite measure, monthly hours worked, jumped (year-on-year) by 3.1%.

Monthly Hours Worked

Infrastructure spending, particularly in NSW and Victoria, is doing its best to offset weakness in other areas.

Wage rate growth remains subdued, indicating little pressure on the RBA to lift rates.

Monthly Hours Worked

Australia: APRA capitulates to Big Four banks

From Clancy Yeates at The Age:

Quelling investor fears over moves to strengthen the financial system, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on Wednesday said major banks would have until 2020 to increase their levels of top-tier capital by about 1 percentage point, to 10.5 per cent.

The target was much more favourable to banks than some analyst predictions, with some bank watchers in recent months warning lenders may need to raise large amounts of equity or cut dividends to satisfy APRA’s long-running push for “unquestionably strong” banks.

Markets are now confident banks will hit APRA’s target, estimated to require about $8 billion in extra capital from the big four, through retained earnings or by selling new shares through their dividend reinvestment plans…..

“The scenario where banks had to raise significant capital appears to be off the table for now,” said managing partner at Arnhem Asset Management, Mark Nathan.

Mr Nathan said the banks’ highly prized dividends also looked “safer”, though were not likely to increase. National Australia Bank and Westpac in particular have high dividend payout ratios, which could put dividends at risk from other factors, such as a rise in bad debts……

APRA’s chair Wayne Byres said the changes could be achieved in an “orderly” way, and the new target would lower the need for any future taxpayer support for banks.

“APRA’s objective in establishing unquestionably strong capital requirements is to establish a banking system that can readily withstand periods of adversity without jeopardising its core function of financial intermediation for the Australian community,” he said.

APRA chairman Wayne Byres used the words “lower the need for any future taxpayer support.” Not “remove the need…..” That means banks are not “unquestionably strong” and taxpayers are still on the hook.

A capital ratio of 10.5% sounds reasonable but the devil is in the detail. Tier 1 Capital includes convertible (hybrid) debt and risk-weighted assets are a poor reflection of total credit exposure, including only that portion of assets that banks consider to be at risk.

Recent bailout experiences in Europe revealed regulators reluctant to convert hybrid capital, included in Tier 1, because of fears of panicking financial markets.

Take Commonwealth Bank (Capital Adequacy and Risks Disclosures as at 31 March 2017) as a local example.

The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is 11.6% while Common Equity Tier 1 Capital (CET1), ignoring hybrids, is more than 17% lower at 9.6%.

But CBA risk-weighted assets of $430 billion also significantly understate total credit exposure of $1,012 billion.

The real acid-test is the leverage ratio which compares CET1 to total credit exposure. For Commonwealth this works out at just over 4.0%. How can that be described as “unquestionably strong”?

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari conducted a study last year in the US and concluded that banks need a leverage ratio of at least 15% to avoid future bailouts. Even higher if they are considered too-big-to-fail.

ASX buoyant as iron rallies

Iron ore broke resistance at $60 and is headed for a test of $70 per ton. This is a strong rally but it does not signal the end of the bear market. Only when the rally ends and there is another test of primary support at $53 will we be able to gauge long-term sentiment.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index broke resistance at 3000, completing a double bottom reversal with a target of 3250. Breach of 2750 is unlikely at present but would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index is testing resistance at 8500 but Twiggs Money Flow below zero continues to warn of long-term selling pressure. Breach of 8000 remains likely and would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 is consolidating in a small triangle (some would call this a large pennant) between 5600 and 5800. Breakout will signal future direction. A lot will depend on iron ore (China) and the banks, which seem to be pulling in opposite directions at present.

ASX 200

Australia faces headwinds

Australian wage rate growth, on the other hand, is declining. is in a worse position, with a dramatic fall in investment following the mining boom.

Australia: Wage Price Index

Source: RBA & ABS

As is inflation.

Australia: Inflation

Source: RBA & ABS

Growth in Household Disposable Income and Consumption.

Australia: Household Income and Consumption

Source: RBA & ABS

And Banks return on shareholders equity.

Australia: Banks Return on Equity

Source: RBA & APRA

But not Housing.

Australia: Banks Return on Equity

Source: RBA, ABS, APM, CoreLogic & Residex

At least not yet.

Falling house prices would complete the feedback loop, shrinking household incomes, consumption and banks ROE.

ASX 200: Banks run into strong resistance

Iron ore peaked at $60. Expect a sharp fall to test support between $50 and $52, typical of a bear market. Chinese housing price growth — a key driver of iron ore prices as illustrated last week — is slowing and likely to drag ore prices lower.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is still on the up but likely to respect resistance at 3000, given the reversal in iron ore. Breach of 2750 would confirm a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index ran into strong resistance at 8500. Declining Twiggs Money Flow highlights selling pressure. Breach of 8000 is likely and would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 displays strong selling pressure, with tall shadows on the last two weekly candles. Twiggs Money Flow dipping below zero for the second time warns of a primary down-trend. Follow-through below 5700 would test primary support at 5600. Breach of 5600 would complete a broad head and shoulders reversal, confirming a primary down-trend.

ASX 200

Surprise retail sales figures light fire under consumer stocks

From Patrick Hatch at The Age:

A surprise jump in retail sales statistics lit a fire under Australia’s beleaguered discretionary retail stocks on Tuesday, making them some of the best performing companies on the ASX’s best day of the year so far.

Gain[s] were enjoyed across the sector as JB Hi-Fi shares closed up 5.29 per cent at $24.48 and Harvey Norman rose 5 per cent to $3.99…..

Apparel and accessory sales grew 1.3 per cent, but Australian Retailers Association chief executive Russell Zimmerman said that was likely driven by heavy discounting. Department stores still took a hit in May, with turnover falling 0.7 per cent.

“We think retailers have done it very tough in clothing and footwear. So to see it rise year-on-year we think that’s retailers discounting heavily to get consumers to buy,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Source: Surprise retail sales figures light fire under consumer stocks

ASX selling pressure despite iron ore rally

Iron ore roared back, breaking resistance at $60. But this is a bear market. Also port inventories are climbing, while housing price growth is slowing. Expect another test of support at $50 is likely. Breach would signal another decline.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index rallied off support at 2750 but is likely to respect resistance at 3000. Breach of 2750 would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index also rallied but is likely to respect 8500. Breach of 8000 would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 displays strong selling pressure, with Twiggs Money Flow dipping below zero for the second time. Follow-through below 5700 would test primary support at 5600. Breach of 5600, while not yet a high probability, would complete a broad head and shoulders reversal.

ASX 200

Investment the key to growth

Elliot Clarke at Westpac recently highlighted the importance of investment in sustaining economic growth:

The importance of sustained investment in an economy cannot be understated. Done well, investment in real capacity begets greater production volume and employment as well as a productivity dividend. Its absence in recent years is a key factor behind sustained soft wage inflation and the US economy’s inability to consistently grow at an above-trend pace despite the economy being at full-employment and household balance sheets having more than fully recovered post GFC.

The graph below highlights declining US investment in new equipment post GFC.

S&P 500

source: Westpac

There are three factors that may influence this:

  1. Accelerated tax depreciation allowances after the GFC encouraged companies to bring forward capital spending in order to stimulate the recovery. But the 2010 to 2012 surge is followed by a later trough when the intended capital expenditure was originally planned to have taken place.
  2. Low growth in personal consumption, especially of non-durable goods and of services, would discourage further capital investment.

US Net Debt & Equity Issuance

  1. The level of stock buybacks increased as companies sought alternative measures to sustain earnings (per share) growth. The graph below shows debt issuance has soared while net equity issuance remains consistently negative.

US Net Debt & Equity Issuance

source: Westpac

Net capital formation (the increase in physical assets owned by nonfinancial corporations) declined between 2015 and 2017. While this is partly attributable to the falling oil price curtailing investment in the Energy sector, continuation of the decline would spell long-term trouble for the economy.

US Net Capital Formation

The cycle becomes self-reinforcing. Low growth in personal consumption leads to low levels of capital investment ….which in turn leads to low employment growth…..leading to further low growth in personal consumption.

Major infrastructure investment is needed to break the cycle. In effect you need to “prime the pump” in order to create a new virtuous cycle, with higher investment leading to higher growth.

It is obviously important that infrastructure investment target productive assets, that generate income, else taxpayers are left with increased debt and no income to service it. Or assets that can be sold to repay the debt. But the importance of infrastructure investment should be evident to both sides of politics and any attempt to obstruct or delay this would be putting political ahead of national interests.

Australia

Australia is in a worse position, with a dramatic fall in investment following the mining boom.

Australia: Business Investment

source: RBA

If we examine the components of business investment, it is not just Engineering that has fallen. Investment in Machinery & Equipment has been declining for the last decade. And now Building Investment is also starting to slow.

Australia: Components of Business Investment

source: RBA

You’ve got to prime the pump…. You’ve got to put something in before you can get anything out.

~ Zig Ziglar

Bearish outlook for the ASX

Iron ore rallied slightly during the week. But this is a bear market. Expect resistance at $60 to hold and breach of support at $50 is likely, signaling another decline.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing support at 2750. Breach is likely and would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Banks are also under pressure, with the ASX 300 Banks index consolidating between 8000 and 8500. Breach of 8000 is likely and would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 displays a broadening wedge consolidation. A failed down-swing, recovering above 5800 without reaching the lower border, would be a bullish sign. But this seems unlikely with a bearish outlook for the two largest sectors.

ASX 200

Westpac Leading Index counters jobs surge

In stark contrast to the buoyant recent ABS jobs numbers, the Westpac Leading Index slowed:

From Matthew Hassan at Westpac:

The six month annualised growth rate in the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity relative to trend three to nine months into the future, eased from 1.01% in April to 0.62% in May.

…..The index is pointing to a clear slowing in momentum. While the growth rate remains comfortably above trend, the pace has eased markedly since the start of the year….

Read more at Westpac.

Strange week on the ASX

Strange week on the ASX, with strong jobs numbers from the ABS causing a surge in the Aussie Dollar and a more optimistic outlook on the ASX.

But Iron ore continues to fall, headed for a test of 50.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index respected resistance at 3000 and is headed for a test of primary support at 2750. Breach would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index respected resistance at 8500 and is likely to test primary support at 8000. Again, breach would confirm the primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 has formed a broadening wedge consolidation, in a down-trend. Declining Twiggs Money Flow indicates some selling pressure. Expect a test of primary support at 5600. Again, breach would warn of a primary down-trend. But a failed swing (that respects 5700) would warn that all bets are off and the index may be preparing for a rally.

ASX 200