Getting out of property and into stocks?

Thu, 09 Nov 2017  |  

Getting out of property and into stocks

That seems to be a theme developing in the Australian market at the moment, with further evidence of a cooling in the housing market and a coincident lift in the value of the ASX hinting that those with money to invest are avoiding the ultra-expensive, low yielding housing market and instead are looking to the stock market for opportunities.

The Australia stock market is moving higher to the point where the ASX200 index is poised to break above 6,000 points for the first time since 2008. The past decade has been a rocky one for the Australian stock market. There has been the GFC, a commodity price boom and bust, speculators have jumped into and out of bank stocks based on extreme calls on the housing market and many local firms have been dealing with an unrelenting threat from foreign competition.

Some of these issues remain, but a combination of factors appear to be at play in the new found interest in the share market.

Fundamentally important for the ASX outperformance has been the solid profit results from the corporate sector. Profits are being supported by growth in corporate earnings at a time when costs are being well contained by record low wage increases and record low interest costs for business.

With interest rates set to remain at record lows for many months (years?) to come, business profitability is likely to remain robust. A solid expansion in the global economy and still very easy monetary conditions in the advanced economies will continue to spill over to the Australian market.

Housing, on the other hand, is facing its inevitable cyclical downturn after many years of spectacular price increases.

While official interest rates have been at record lows, the banks have been hiking rates for those borrowing interest only and for investment purposes. There has also been a tightening in lending for investment purposes and credit growth is this segment is slowing. Loans for investment in dwellings are now unattractive.

Furthermore, the cost of housing is now a significant deterrent for fresh investment, a point compounded by the dismally low rental yield. In simple terms, buying a dwelling for investment purposes is losing favour. Interestingly, compared to the levels of 2007, the overall level of the ASX is still down around 10 per cent, while Australian house prices have risen over 80 per cent, on average. Housing has proven to be the stand out investment.

It appears that this is starting to change.

With house prices set for a protracted period of weakness and with a very low rental yield, investors are likely to shun additional exposure to property. Money flowing into the stock market will inevitably result.

If there is any sort of investor bandwagon towards the stock market as these trends become increasingly apparent, and history shows rising markets attract enthusiastic investors, the stock market could be set for solid growth, aided by strong investment inflows looking for yield as well as capital growth.

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Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Thu, 06 Dec 2018

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance web site at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/dont-fall-spin-scott-morrisons-budget-surplus-no-certainty-224422761.html 

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Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison could yet be guilty of prematurely declaring that his government will deliver a budget surplus in 2018-19.

Sure, tax revenue is growing at a rapid pace and the government is underspending on a range of government services, but there are still seven long months to go between now and the end of the financial year that might yet blow up the surplus commitment.

PM Morrison’s ‘return to surplus’ boast is based, it appears, on hard data for the first four months of the 2018-19 financial year on revenue and spending information from the Department of Finance. These numbers do look strong, at least in terms of the budget numbers and if the trends on revenue and spending continue, the budget will probably be in surplus. Treasury will be factoring in ongoing economic growth, no increase in the unemployment rate and buoyant iron ore and coal prices over the remainder of the financial year. These forecasts and hence the budget bottom line are subject to a good deal of uncertainty, as they are every year.

If, as is distinctly possible, the economy stalls in the March and June quarters 2019, commodity prices continue to weaken and if there are some unexpected increases in government spending, the current erroneous forecasts for revenue and spending could leave the budget in deficit.

Change of view on monetary policy

Wed, 05 Dec 2018

In the wake of the September quarter national accounts, and with accumulating information on house prices, dwelling investment, the global economy and spare capacity in the labour market, I have revised my outlook for official interest rates.

For some time, I have been expecting the RBA to cut the official cash rate to 1.0 per cent, a forecast that has been wrong (clearly) given its decision to leave rates steady right through 2018.

That said, it has been a highly profitable call with the market pricing interest rate hikes when the call was made which has yielded a decent return as time has passed.

My updated profile for RBA rates is:

May 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.25%
August 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.00%
November 2019 – 25bp cut to 0.75%

The risk is for rates to 0.5% in very late 2019 or in 2020

It will be driven by:

  • Underlying inflation remaining below 2%
  • GDP growth around 0.25 to 0.5% per quarter in 2019
  • Annual wages growth stuck at 2.5% or less
  • Global growth slowing towards 3%
  • Labour market under-utilisation around 13 to 13.5%

There are likely to be other influences, but these are the main ones.

AUD, as a result, looks set to drop to 0.6000 – 0.6500 range.