Australia: Good news and bad news

First, the good news from the RBA chart pack.

Exports continue to climb, especially in the Resources sector. Manufacturing is the only flat spot.

Australia: Exports

Business investment remains weak and is likely to impact on long-term growth in both profits and wages.

Australia: Business Investment

The decline is particularly steep in the Manufacturing sector and not just in Mining.

Australia: Business Investment by Sector

But government investment in infrastructure has cushioned the blow.

Australia: Public Sector Investment

Profits in the non-financial sector remain low, apart from mining which has benefited from strong export demand.

Australia: Non-Financial Sector Profits

Job vacancies are rising which should be good news for wage rates. But this also means higher inflation and, down the line, higher interest rates.

Australia: Job Vacancies

The housing and financial sector is our Achilles heel, with household debt climbing a wall of worry.

Australia: Housing Prices and Household Debt

House prices are shrinking despite record low interest rates.

Australia: Housing Prices

Broad money and credit growth are slowing, warning of a contraction.

Australia: Broad Money and Credit Growth

Bank profits remain strong.

Australia: Bank Profits

But capital ratios are low, with the bulk of profits distributed to shareholders as dividends. The ratios below are calculated on risk-weighted assets. Raw leverage ratios are a lot weaker.

Australia: Bank Capital Ratios

One of the primary accelerants of the housing bubble and household debt has been $900 billion of offshore borrowings by domestic banks. The chickens are coming home to roost, with bank funding costs rising as the Fed hikes interest rates. In the last four months the 90-day bank bill swap rate (BBSW) jumped 34.5 basis points.

The banks face a tough choice: pass on higher interest rates to mortgage borrowers or accept narrower margins and a profit squeeze. With an estimated 30 percent of households already suffering from mortgage stress, any interest rate hikes will impact on both housing prices and delinquency rates.

I continue to avoid exposure to banks, particularly hybrids where many investors do not understand the risks.

I also remain cautious on mining because of a potential slow-down in China, with declining growth in investment and in retail sales.

China: Activity

ASX 200 strengthens despite banks and iron prices

Iron ore prices are weakening, with spot testing support at $62/tonne. A Trend Index peak below zero would complete a bearish outlook, warning of strong selling pressure. Breach of support at $58 would confirm a primary down-trend.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing resistance at 4000, remaining in a strong up-trend despite weaker ore prices.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Australian banks face a tough time over the next year or two but the ASX 200 index continues to strengthen despite weakness in its largest sector. A Twiggs Money Flow (13-week) trough at the zero line signals interest from buyers and breakout above 6150 would signal a primary advance, with a target of the October 2007 high at 6750.

ASX 200

UBS: Buy miners | Macrobusiness

By
Re-published with kind permission from Macrobusiness.

If you want to know why RIO is higher today than when iron ore was at $92 then check this out from UBS:

Hitting the Wall or Just a Wobble?

Australian equities performed poorly in May (falling 3%) despite global markets posting solid gains (rising 2%). The market weakness in May was overwhelmingly driven by the heavyweight banks sector. On balance we believe “hard landing” fears are overdone though we concede that the consumer outlook is lacklustre.

Staying Overweight Resources and Neutral Banks

We continue to overweight the resource sector on the basis of relative valuation, and benign (iron ore) to moderately constructive commodity expectations (copper, oil, mineral sands). With the bank sector off 10% (total return), we think the sector is once again looking “fair” in an absolute sense (12.8x and 5.9% yield) and notionally cheap in a relative sense. A constrained growth outlook and near-term capital uncertainty keep us neutral.

Other Favoured Themes

From a thematic standpoint two of our key themes remain 1) public infrastructure exposure (we continue to hold Boral and Lend Lease Group) and 2) domestic energy suppliers continue to be well supported by investors (we continue to hold AGL Energy, Origin Energy). We continue to overweight US$/US economy plays.

 

What can I say? That’s some crazy shit.

IMF warns about Chinese debt

From FT (via the Coppo Report at Bell Potter):

China’s leaders need to look beyond the current solutions being floated to tackle the country’s mounting corporate debt problems and come up with a bigger plan to do so, the International Monetary Fund’s top China expert has warned. The IMF has been expressing growing concern about China’s debt issues and pushing for an urgent response by Beijing to what the fund sees as a serious problem for the Chinese economy. It warned in a report earlier this month that $1.3tn in corporate debt — or almost one in six of the business loans on Chinese banks’ books — was owed by companies who brought in less in revenues than they owed in interest payments alone. In a paper published on Tuesday, James Daniel, the fund’s China mission chief, and two co­authors, went further and warned that Beijing needed a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem. They warned that the two main responses Beijing was planning to the problem — debt­-for­-equity swaps and the securitization of non­performing loans — could in fact make the problem worse if underlying issues were not dealt with. The plan for debt­ for equity swaps could end up offering a temporary lifeline to unviable state­ owned companies, they warned. It could also leave them managed by state­ owned banks or other officials with little experience in doing so.

Bad debt is bad debt …… and nonproductive assets are nonproductive assets. Financial window-dressing like securitization or debt-for-equity swaps will not change this. The assets are still unproductive. Effectively, China has to stump up $1.3 trillion to re-capitalize its banks. And that may be the tip of the iceberg.

Real-time payments could hurt banks

Ruth Liew:

….the Reserve Bank of Australia pushes Australian banks to create the New Payments Platform, a new piece of open-source infrastructure being built that will move the payments system to real time. The RBA’s plans are echoed by the US and the eurozone, which are also planning to roll out real time payment infrastructure by next year. These payments would boost Australia’s economic activity, as money flow improves and Australians access their funds as they are deposited, [Don Sharp at InPayTech] argued.

Australian banks could lose $2.5 billion in interest earnings if instantaneous payments were adopted – and the figure could jump significantly as interest rates rise.

Payments held in the banking system are part of the “float” which banks use for interest-free funding of part of their balance sheet — a boost to interest margins. Switch to a realtime payments system would see this disappear.

Source: InPayTech plots capital raise and ASX IPO as real-time payments take off

APRA waves wet lettuce at bank offshore funding | MacroBusiness

From Leith van Onselen at Macrobusiness:

…..the banks’ reliance on offshore funding hit an unprecedented 54% of GDP in the December quarter:

As always, the key risk is that the banks’ ability to continue borrowing from offshore rests with foreigners’ willingness to continue extending them credit. This willingness will be tested in the event that Australia’s sovereign credit rating is downgraded (automatically downgrading the banks’ credit ratings), there is another global shock, or a sharp deterioration in the Australian economy (raising Australia’s risk premia).

The Federal Budget, too, is now hostage to the banks’ offshore borrowing binge as it cannot borrow to spend on infrastructure or other initiatives for fear that Australia will lose its AAA credit rating, potentially leading to an unraveling of the private debt bubble created by Australia’s banks.

That APRA could stand by and allow the banks’ to borrow externally like drunken sailors is a hallmark of regulatory failure.

One in four dollars of bank assets is funded by offshore borrowing. A precarious position even for a stable economy (like Ireland?), let alone one hitched to the boom and bust commodity cycle. Smacks of moral hazard by the banks.

Source: APRA waves wet lettuce at bank offshore funding – MacroBusiness

APRA confirms further capital adequacy measures

From Robin Christie:

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has confirmed that the country’s largest banks will face increased capital adequacy requirements for residential mortgage exposures – and hasn’t ruled out further rises.

The regulator made it clear yesterday that the new rules would be an interim measure based on the Financial System Inquiry’s (FSI) recommendations – and that it was keenly awaiting guidance from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision before making any further changes.

The new measures, which come into effect on 1 July 2016, mandate that authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) that are accredited to use the internal ratings-based (IRB) approach to credit risk must increase their average risk weight on Australian residential mortgage exposures to at least 25 per cent. According to APRA, the current average risk weight figure sits at around 16 per cent….

This is a welcome first step. Increases in bank capital will improve economic stability. Even at 25 percent, however, a capital ratio of 10% would mean that banks are holding 2.5 percent capital against residential mortgages. Further increases over time will be necessary.

Read more at APRA hints at further capital adequacy measures.

Bank chiefs in last-ditch plea to David Murray on tougher rules | The Australian

From Richard Gluyas at The Australian:

THE four major-bank chief executives have each made an eleventh-hour appeal to members of the Murray financial system inquiry ahead of Tuesday’s closing date for final submissions, as concerns mount that the sector could be forced to hold even higher ­levels of bank capital due to the ­inquiry’s emphasis on resilience. The closed-door meetings with the inquiry panel members come as Steven Munchenberg, chief executive of peak lobby group the Australian Bankers’ Association, said the industry was “jittery” about the inquiry’s focus on ­balance-sheet resilience because more onerous capital requirements would affect the banks’ ability to lend and serve the ­economy.

I disagree. Banks with strong balance sheets are better able to serve the needs of the economy. Highly leveraged banks leave the economy vulnerable to a financial crisis and are more likely to contract lending during periods of economic stress.

The shrill outcry may have something to do with the impact on bankers bonuses. Incentives based on capital employed would shrink if shareholder’s capital is increased.

Bank shareholders on the other hand are likely to benefit from stronger balance sheets. Reduced default risk is likely to enhance market valuation metrics like price-earnings multiples. Reduced risk premiums will also lower cost of funding and enhance lending margins. And shareholders are also likely to benefit from enhanced growth prospects. Analysis by the Bank for International Settlements in the post crisis period shows banks with higher capital ratios experience higher asset and loan growth.

World wakes to APRA paralysis | Macrobusiness

Posted by Houses & Holes:

Bloomberg has a penetrating piece today hammering RBA/APRA complacency on house prices, which will be read far and wide in global markets (as well as MB is!):

Central banks from Scandinavia to the U.K. to New Zealand are sounding the alarm about soaring mortgage debt and trying to curb risky lending. In Australia, where borrowing is surging, regulators are just watching.

Australia has the third-most overvalued housing market on a price-to-income basis, after Belgium and Canada, according to the International Monetary Fund. The average home price in the nation’s eight major cities rose 16 percent as of June 30 from a May 2012 trough, the RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index showed.

“There’s definitely room for caps on lending,” said Martin North, Sydney-based principal at researcherDigital Finance Analytics. “Global house price indices are all showing Australia is close to the top, and the RBA has been too myopic in adjusting to what’s been going on in the housing market.”

Australian regulators are hesitant to impose nation-wide rules as only some markets have seen strong price growth, said Kieran Davies, chief economist at Barclays Plc in Sydney.

…“The RBA’s probably got at the back of its mind that we’re only in the early stages of the adjustment in the mining sector,” Davies said. “Mining investment still has a long way to fall, and also the job losses to flow from that. So to some extent, the house price growth is a necessary evil.”

…The RBA, in response to an e-mailed request for comment, referred to speeches and papers by Head of Financial Stability Luci Ellis.

…The RBA and APRA have acknowledged potential benefits of loan limits “but at this stage they don’t believe that this type of policy action is necessary,” said David Ellis, a Sydney-based analyst at Morningstar Inc. “If the housing market was out of control and if loan growth, particularly investor credit, grew exponentially then it’d be introduced.”

What do you call this, David:

ScreenHunter_3294 Jul. 14 11.51

Reproduced with kind permission from Macrobusiness

Bankers’ political influence cause for concern

I am not sure of the background to this, but it certainly looks as if the big UK banks were able to exert enough political pressure to remove Robert Jenkins from the Financial Policy Committee, the UK’s new stability regulator. Anne-Sylvaine Chassany at FT writes:

An outspoken advocate of tough bank regulation who has worked in banking and asset management, Robert Jenkins left the committee earlier this year after not being reappointed by George Osborne, chancellor.

If bankers’ influence was the cause, it certainly is cause for concern.

via Barclays’ threat on lending under fire – FT.com.