ASX catches a virus

It’s not a pretty sight. The ASX 200 fell close to 10% in a single week. The severity of the fall suggests that sellers are committed and buyers are scarce. Breach of support at 6400 is highly likely and would offer a target of 5400 (a 25% draw-down).

ASX 200

A V-shaped recovery is unlikely.

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index broke primary support at 4100, completing a double-top reversal with a target of 3400.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The Aussie Dollar is also getting smashed, headed for a target of 64 cents after breaking support at 67.

AUDUSD

The ASX 300 Banks index is headed for a test of 7250/7300. Breach is likely and would offer a test of 6750.

ASX 300 Banks

Our conclusion hasn’t changed from last week:

Threats continue to outweigh opportunities in our view and we retain a bearish view on the global and domestic economies. Our focus remains on defensive and contra-cyclical (gold) stocks.

ASX 200 hesitant

The resources sector is strengthening.

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index broke resistance at 4450, suggesting another advance. Buoyed by rising iron ore prices, the breakout offers a target of 4800.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Talk of an imminent trade deal lifted iron ore above previous support at 90. Expect another test of primary support at 80, but respect would confirm that a base has formed above 80.

Iron Ore

Financials, on the other hand, are still weak.

The ASX 300 Banks index continues in a down-trend. Expect retracement to test resistance at 7600 but reversal seems unlikely at this stage. Respect of resistance would confirm a target of 6800.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 REITs index broke support at 1600 after a false break through 1650. Typical of a bull trap, expect a decline to test support at 1500.

ASX 200 REITs

A bearish outlook for banks is keeping the ASX 200 hesitant. The daily chart shows narrow consolidation below resistance at 6750; a bullish sign. Breakout is likely but the Trend Index below zero warns that buyers are cautious.

ASX 200

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

Banks drag on ASX 200

Banks are plagued by fears of large AUSTRAC penalties for breaches of anti money-laundering and counter-terrorism regulations. Commonwealth have paid a $700 million fine, Westpac have already been charged, NAB alerted investors of potential liabilities in their annual report, while ANZ says there are no signs of transgressions.

In other problem areas, mortgage stress continues to rise, with Martin North (Digital Finance Analytics) estimating that 32.5% of households are now in mortgage stress “based on an assessment of their cash flow.” Worst hit are fringe suburbs, where the rate is as high as 60%.

Elsewhere, RBNZ eased their calls for major banks to increase Common Equity Tier 1 Capital (CET1) to 13.5%, with a further 2.5% comprising other forms of capital such as hybrids and convertible preference shares, and relaxed the phase-in from 5 to 7 years. But the changes will still $13.8 billion in additional capital, according to the big four banks. APRA, by comparison, requires a CET1 ratio of 10.5%.

The ASX 300 Banks index continues to trend lower, with declining peaks on the Trend Index warning of selling pressure. Expect retracement to test resistance at 7600; respect would confirm the  target of 6800.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 REITs index is again testing support at 1600 after a false break above 1650. Breach of support remains unlikely, with financial markets searching for yield, but would offer a target of 1500.

ASX 200 REITs

Iron ore has made a bear market rally to test resistance at 90. Respect of resistance is likely and would warn of another decline.

Iron Ore

A Trend Index peak near zero on the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index warns of another test of support at 4100 (neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern). Breach would offer a target of 3400, while respect of support would indicate that a base is forming.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Declining banks are dragging the ASX 200 lower and another test of support at 6400 is likely. A resources sector reversal would increase the chance of top forming on the broad index

ASX 200

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

ASX 200: Don’t argue with the tape

“A prudent speculator never argues with the tape. Markets are never wrong; opinions often are.” ~ Jesse Livermore

The ASX 200 broke resistance at 6800, signaling a fresh advance with a short-term target of 7200. Declining Trend Index peaks still warn of secondary selling pressure at present. Expect retracement to test the new support level at 6800. Respect of support would confirm the advance.

ASX 200

But divergence from fundamentals is growing.

NAB cut their GDP forecast to 1.5% in their November Forward View.

Housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne have recovered somewhat, but building approvals for houses remain 21% below their 2017 high and 57% for apartments. Construction activity is likely to remain low.

Exports are strong, boosted by increased LNG exports, but iron ore prices are falling. Currently testing short-term support at 80, our long-term target for iron ore is $65/metric ton.

Iron Ore

Business investment has slowed, causing wages to stagnate.

Australia: Business Investment

Retail sales weakened as a consequence, contracting for the first time since the early 1990s.

Australia: Retail Sales

Annual credit growth slowed to 2.5%, the lowest since 2010.

Banks were spooked last week by AUSTRAC pursuing Westpac for 19.5 million breaches of anti money-laundering and counter-terrorism regulations. The ASX 300 Banks index broke support at 7600, completing a double-top reversal, but this week they consolidated in a narrow range. Expect retracement to test resistance at 7600. Declining peaks on the Trend Index, however, continue to warn of selling pressure. Respect of resistance would confirm the decline, with a target of 6800.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 REITs index broke out of its descending triangle, signaling another advance. Financial markets are searching for yield.

ASX 200 REITs

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index penetrated its descending trendline, suggesting that a base is forming. Expect another test of support at 4100 (neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern). Breach would offer a target of 3400. The Trend Index penetrated its descending trendline but a peak near zero would warn of continued selling pressure.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

We shouldn’t argue with the market but we should wait for confirmation; bull and bear traps are common. Investors, bear in mind that market risk remains elevated. I leave you with this quote from Westpac in their recent credit update:

For businesses, the economic backdrop has become more challenging. The global economy is slowing and household spending is soft. In this environment business investment in the real economy has lost momentum across the non-mining sectors – which will weigh on credit demand.

….and on jobs, wages growth and household spending.

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

ASX 200: Banks break support

ASX 300 Banks index broke support at 7600, signaling a correction to test primary support at 6750. Declining peaks on the Trend Index confirm selling pressure.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 REITs index has formed a bearish descending triangle. Breach of support at 1600 would warn of a correction. It seems unlikely that would reach primary support at 1350 because financial markets are searching for yield.

ASX 200 REITs

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is also faltering. Expect another test of support at 4100 (neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern). Breach would offer a target of 3400. The Trend Index penetrated its descending trendline but a peak near zero would warn of continued selling pressure.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Iron ore found short-term support at 80 but continues its primary down-trend. Our long-term target is 65.

Iron Ore

The ASX 200 retreated from resistance at 6800. Declining Trend Index peaks only indicate secondary selling pressure at present. Expect another test of support at 6400. Breach is still unlikely but would offer a target of 5400.

ASX 200

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

ASX 200 diverges from fundamentals

Seasonally adjusted labour force estimates show a decline in October 2019:

  • Employment decreased by 19,000 to 12,919,200 people
    (full-time -10,300 and part-time -8,700).
  • Unemployment rate increased by 0.1 pts to 5.3%.
  • Monthly hours worked in all jobs decreased by 2.8 million hours to 1,783.9 million hours.

The leading indicator of employment has been predicting a down-turn in employment for some time, recording its sixteenth consecutive monthly fall in November.

Australia: Leading Employment Indicator

Job advertisements have also declined since late 2018.

Australia: Job Ads & Vacancies

Falling employment has a knock-on effect in other areas of the economy:

According to Tony Weber, chief executive of the FCAI, new vehicles have now seen the nineteenth consecutive month of decreasing sales in the Australian market, with October 2019 sales down 9.1% compared to October 2018.

“Year to date sales of new motor vehicles in 2019 are almost 78,000 units (eight per cent) lower than the same period in 2018…”

Retail sales are also soft:

In volume terms, the seasonally adjusted estimate for the September quarter 2019 fell 0.1%. This follows a 0.1% rise in the June quarter 2019, and a 0.1% fall in the March quarter 2019.

But the ASX 200, seemingly unperturbed, is testing resistance at 6800. Breakout would signal a primary advance with a target of 7200. Breach of support at 6400 seems unlikely but would warn of a decline with a target of 5400.

ASX 200

There are, however, signs of weakness in the largest two sectors.

ASX 300 Banks index penetrated its rising trendline, warning of a correction. Declining peaks on the Trend Index indicate secondary selling pressure. Follow-through of the index below 7600 would strengthen the bear signal.

ASX 300 Banks

A hanging man candlestick warns the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is likely to again test support at 4100 ( the neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern ). A Trend Index peak near zero would indicate continued selling pressure.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Iron ore continues its primary decline, since breaking support at 90. Our long-term target is 65.

Iron Ore

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook. But ASX 200 breakout above 6800 would force us to re-examine our outlook.

ASX banks profit squeeze but miners bullish

Iron ore continues its primary decline, having broken support at 90. Expect a test of the long-term target at 65.

Iron Ore

ASX 300 Metals & Mining index rallied during the week. I was expecting another test of support at 4100 ( the neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern ) but a higher Money Flow trough near zero indicates buying pressure. A large divergence between iron ore and the Metals & Mining index warns that something is afoot.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The CEOs of ANZ, Westpac and NAB this week all mentioned pressure on net interest margins in their earnings announcements.

Net Interest Margins

But as this chart of fee and other income to March 2019 shows, it is not just interest margins that are under pressure. Transaction fees are steadily declining, while low book growth in recent years has resulted in declining lending fees. The recent sharp fall in other fee-based activity is also unlikely to recover as banks shed their troublesome wealth management business units.

Majors: Fees
Source APRA: Major Banks

ASX 300 Banks index retreated below its rising trendline, warning of a correction. Declining peaks on the Trend Index indicate secondary selling pressure. Follow-through below 7600 would strengthen the signal.

ASX 300 Banks

REITs have been experiencing selling pressure in the last few months despite the scramble for yield, with descending peaks on Twiggs Money Flow and a bearish descending triangle. Breach of support at 1600 would offer a short-term target of 1500.

ASX 200 REITs

ASX 200

Financials are mildly bearish but miners are surprisingly bullish. An ascending triangle on the ASX 200 signals buying pressure, while the declining peaks on Money Flow are modest in relation to the overall up-trend. Breakout above 6800 would signal another advance with a target of 7200. Breach of support at 6400 is now less likely but would warn of a decline with a target of 5400. As always, the two biggest sectors, Financials and Mining, are likely to point the way.

ASX 200

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook. But ASX 200 breakout above 6800 would force us to review our outlook.

ASX mixed signals

Residential mortgage activity is recovering in response to recent rate cuts. Buyers are unable to resist the ultra-low finance costs, while APRA is sitting on its hands regarding macro-prudential measures (e.g. reducing maximum LVRs) to prevent another credit/housing bubble. Again, we see a two-speed economy, with mortgage stress in newer suburbs and inner-city units, where homeowners are unable to take advantage of lower rates, and rising prices in older, more established suburbs with lower mortgage exposure.

ASX 200 Financials index is testing resistance at 6500. Higher troughs on the Trend Index indicate buying pressure. There is no sign of a reversal at present but keep a weather eye on primary support at 6000; breach would warn of a primary decline with a target of 5200.

ASX 200 Financials

Banks face headwinds from pressure on interest margins, increased competition from disruptors in the form of neobanks (digital banking service providers), and demands to increase capital buffers which could lead to dividend cuts.

Iron ore is testing support at 90. Breach of support would warn of a decline with a long-term target of 65.

Iron Ore

ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing support at 4100, the neckline of a large head-and-shoulders reversal pattern. Declining peaks on the Trend Index signal selling pressure. Breach of support would warn of a decline with a target of 3400.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

REITs recovered slightly from their recent sell-off but downside risk remains. Breach of support at 1600 would warn of a decline to 1500.

ASX 200 REITs

ASX 200

The ASX 200 continues to give mixed signals. An ascending triangle on the index chart is bullish, but the Trend Index also shows declining peaks, warning of selling pressure. Breakout above 6800 would signal another advance, while breach of support at 6400 would warn of a decline with a target of 5400.

ASX 200

We maintain low exposure to Australian equities, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

ASX and 3 headwinds

Despite recent strong performance, investor enthusiasm may be cooling, with the Australian economy facing three headwinds.

Declining Household Spending

Household income growth is faltering and weighing down consumption. Household spending would have fallen even further, dragging the economy into recession, if households were not digging into savings to maintain their living standards.

Australia: Disposable Income, Consumption and Savings

But households are only likely to draw down on savings when housing prices are high. Commonly known as the “wealth effect” there is a clear relationship between household wealth and consumption. If housing prices were to continue falling then households are likely to cut back on spending and boost savings (including higher mortgage repayments).

Consumption is one of the few remaining contributors to GDP growth. If that falls, the economy is likely to go into recession.

Australia: GDP growth contribution by sector

Housing Construction

The RBA is desperately trying to prevent a further fall in house prices because of the negative effect this will have on household spending (consumption). But rate cuts are not being passed on to borrowers, and households are maintaining their existing mortgage repayments (increasing savings) if they do benefit, rather than increasing spending.

House prices ticked up after the recent fall, in response to RBA interest rate cuts. But Martin North reports that the recovery is only evident in more affluent suburbs with lower mortgage exposure (e.g. Eastern suburbs in Sydney) and that newer suburbs and inner city high-density units are experiencing record levels of mortgage stress.

Housing

Building approvals reflect this, with a down-turn in detached housing and a sharp plunge in high density unit construction.
Building Approvals

Dwelling investment is likely to remain a drag on GDP growth over the next year.

Falling Commodity Prices

Iron ore and coal, Australia’s two largest commodity exports, are falling in price as the global economic growth slows. Dalian Commodity Exchange’s most-traded iron ore contract , with January 2020 expiry, closed at 616 yuan ($86.99) per tonne, close to a seven-month low. Falling prices are likely to inhibit further mining investment.

Iron Ore and Coal Prices

Metals & Mining

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing long-term support at 4100. Breach would complete a head and shoulders reversal, with a target of 3400.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Financials

The Financial sector recovered this year, trending upwards since January, but faces a number of issues in the year ahead:

  • customer remediation flowing from issues exposed by the Royal Commission;
  • net interest margins squeezed as the RBA lowers interest rates;
  • continued pressure to increase capital ratios are also likely to impact on dividend payout ratios;
  • low housing (construction and sales) activity rates impact on fee income; and
  • high levels of mortgage stress impact on borrower default rates.

ASX 200 Financials index faces strong resistance at 6500. There is no sign of a reversal at present but keep a weather eye on primary support at 6000. We remain bearish in our outlook for the sector and breach of 6000 would warn of a primary decline with a target of 5200.

ASX 200 Financials

REITs are experiencing selling pressure despite an investment market desperate for yield. Dexus (DXS) may be partly responsible after the office and industrial fund reported a 26% profit fall in the first half of 2019.

ASX 200 REITs

ASX 200

The ASX 200 is showing signs of (secondary) selling pressure, with a tall shadow on this week’s candle and a lower peak on the Trend index. Expect a test of support at 6400; breach would offer a target of 5400.

ASX 200

We maintain exposure to Australian equities at 22% of portfolio value, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish outlook.

ASX hesitates in its downward slide

There is a hint of optimism in the air, with the year-on-year decline in housing prices slowing, to around -5% nationally, on the back of lower interest rates.

Housing

The ASX 200 hesitated in its downward slide but is still likely to test support at 6400. Breach would offer a target of 5400.

ASX 200

Iron ore continues to trade in a narrow range above short-term support at $90, suggesting continuation of the down-trend. Breach would offer a medium-term target of $80 per ton.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing long-term support at 4100. Breach would complete a head and shoulders reversal, with a target of 3400.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The Financial sector hesitated slightly, after a sharp fall last week. The rebound was undermined by an ANZ profit downgrade:

ANZ today announced its second half 2019 Cash Profit will be impacted by a charge of $559m (after-tax) as a result of increased provisions for customer related remediation.

Major banks’ net interest margins are also under increasing pressure as the RBA lowers interest rates.

Net Interest Margins

Expect ASX 200 Financials to test primary support at 6000. Breach would signal a primary decline, with a target of 5200.

ASX 200 Financials

REITs are surprisingly soft in a financial market desperate for yield. But there is wide disparity in the sector, with BWP for example surging, while office and industrial fund Dexus (DXS) is undergoing a sell-off.

ASX 200 REITs

We maintain exposure to Australian equities at 25% of portfolio value, with a focus on defensive and contra-cyclical stocks, because of our bearish long-term outlook.