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The Overnight Report: Mixed Messages

Daily Market Reports | Sep 02 2016

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By Greg Peel

The Dow closed up 18 points or 0.1% while the S&P was flat at 2170 and the Nasdaq rose 0.3%.

Holding On

Yesterday’s weakness on the local market was all about the resource sectors, which in turn is all about Fed policy. Lower commodity prices ensured both energy and materials fell 1.7% although in the case of materials, we have to count back the effect of BHP Billiton ((BHP)) going ex.

Having had a solid run from the Brexit rebound on better than expected commodity prices, the resource sector names have now suffered an investor exit. While demand/supply fundamentals still underpin – oil being the obvious case in point – commodity prices have over that period been supported by the assumption the Fed would not be raising its cash rate in September and perhaps not in December either.

Now that assumption has reversed, the US dollar has thus risen, and dollar-denominated commodity prices have come under mathematical pressure. We note also the next worst performing sector on the local market yesterday was utilities, down 0.5%, which suffers via the the Australia-US interest rate differential.

Elsewhere, sector moves were mixed and less dramatic. It is notable that the ASX200 was down 32 points late morning before turning around to come back almost to square mid-afternoon, ahead of a final drift-off. At its nadir the index hit 5405 and technically, 5400 is the support line.

Whereas the month of August was dominated by individual stock moves during results season, September has opened with a return to the macro influence of economic data. Australia’s data releases were quite mixed.

The mass media were calling the June quarter private capital expenditure result (-5.4%) another shocker – sky’s falling and all of that – but indeed quite the opposite is true. We know that resource sector spending is continuing to fall as mining investment exits its boom and LNG projects reach completion. But the fall in June quarter “mining” spending was actually not as great as forecast.

We are looking to non-mining spending to carry the can and indeed it rose during the quarter. The other important element of yesterday’s capex data is capex intentions, and here we saw an upgrade to FY17 spending intentions. The June quarter represents the third estimate, and things are heading in the right direction.

We know that the decline in “mining” spending will soon exhaust itself. While it won’t reverse, it will stop dragging down the net numbers, It’s then up to non-mining to drive economic growth. Here, a lot depends on just how sharply the housing boom cools off, and on the positive side, just how helpful other sectors can be, for example, inbound tourism.

Because Australian consumers are not exactly doing their bit at the moment. Retail sales growth was flat in July when 0.3% growth was forecast. Following only 0.1% gains in both May and June, annual sales growth has fallen to a tepid 2.7%.

Aside from being a reflection of stiff retail competition (down, down etc) in dollar terms, weak sales growth is a reflection of just how misleading the current unemployment rate is. The ongoing increase in part time jobs at the expense of full-time jobs – both counted equally as a “job” in the official unemployment rate number – is resulting in weak wages growth and subsequently, weak consumption.

What is the RBA to do? The capex data were pleasing but the sales data were not. And Sydney/Melbourne house prices continued to rise in July despite assumptions a peak must surely soon be reached. Having staved off concerns over a housing investment bubble via stricter lending standards, the RBA is now faced with owner-occupiers piling in to fill the gap. These O-Os, as they’re called, are more likely to stretch their budgets to accommodate a hefty mortgage than investors who at least pick up rent, and negative gearing.

Can the RBA afford to cut rates again?

The central bank can probably afford to ignore yesterday’s Australian manufacturing PMI for August which indicated a collapse into contraction at 46.9, down from 55.4. I’ve said this before, but it seems very strange that every other economy on the planet manages to only ever post incremental monthly PMI changes but Australia’s manufacturing PMI leaps all about the place like a cricket on steroids. Maybe it’s because Australia’s manufacturing sector is so tiny, or it’s just too small a sample, but either way, credibility is lacking.

It’s a different story in China, albeit there are other doubts about the value of Beijing’s data. Beijing’s official manufacturing PMI sparked all sorts of excitement yesterday by rising back to 50.4 from 49.9 in July. Big whoop. Aside from Caixin’s equivalent falling to 50.0 from 50.6, Beijing is trying to shift away from being an export economy. Beijing’s service sector PMI fell to 53.5 from 53.9.

And that’s more concerning.

PMI Plunge

Japan’s manufacturing sector managed to slow its pace of decline in August. The PMI rose to 49.5 from 49.3, but Japan is totally reliant on exports so it’s hardly a good result. The eurozone equivalent slipped to 51.7 from 52.0 which we might say was all about Brexit but if it is, the Poms have clearly made the right decision.

The UK PMI shocked everyone in rebounding to 53.3 from 48.8.

The US equivalent, on the other hand, fell to 49.4 from 52.6, when economists had forecast 52.0.

On this news, early in the session on Wall Street, the US dollar index plunged 0.4% and stayed there. The Dow plunged a hundred points. But hang on, if the Fed is data-dependent then surely here is clear evidence a rate rise is not a good idea. Subsequently, the US stock indices rallied back again.

It’s just what we need – more confusion over what the Fed might do this month. And tonight we have the jobs report.

In the meantime, last night represented the 39th consecutive session in which the neither the Dow nor S&P has moved more than 1%.

Commodities

The US dollar index is down 0.4% at 95.64 on the assumption a September rate rise is by no means a given, if indeed it ever was. This is good for commodity prices.

All base metals moved to the upside in London, with lead, nickel and zinc each rising more than 1%.

Gold rose US$5.10 to US$1313.60/oz.

Iron ore dropped US60c to US$58.40/t but as I often note, iron ore does its own thing. But clearly no one told the oil market a weaker greenback is a good thing.

West Texas crude has lost another 3%, down US$1.30 at US$43.53/bbl. Once 45 was breached it was going to take more than Fed policy to calm the nerves.

The Aussie has matched the greenback’s fall in rising 0.4% to US$0.7550.

Today

The SPI Overnight closed down 12 points.

US jobs tonight, which is about all that really matters, but note that S&P/ASX will announce pending index component changes today before they become effective in two weeks.

And Fortescue Metals ((FMG)) goes ex.

Rudi will Skype-link with Sky Business to discuss broker calls at around 11.05am.
 

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