Australian banks under selling pressure

The ASX 300 Banks index are a major drag on the broad market index. Having respected resistance at 8500, a test of primary support at 8000 is likely. Twiggs Trend Index peaks below zero warn of strong selling pressure.

ASX 300 Banks

Return on equity is falling.

Australian Banks Return on Equity

A combination of narrow interest margins.

Bank Net Interest Margins

Soaring household debt.

Bank Net Interest Margins

And rising capital requirements as APRA desperately tries to protect their glass jaw.

Bank Capital Ratios

Don’t let the ratios fool you. They are based on risk-weighted assets. Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) leverage ratio for at least one of the majors is as low as 4.0 percent.

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