- Local and global equity markets were mixed this week with investors pummelled by an influx of extremely fluid news flow including conflict, inflation, central banks and rates, and floods.
- In local stock news, CSL announced it would waive its original 80% acceptance rate condition and declare its $16 billion takeover of Vifor Pharma a success, after gaining more than 74% in the takeover target. Swiss government approval is still required.
- Insurers have been informing the market of their claims from the floods and storms that battered parts of New South Wales and Queensland since late February. IAG has revised its total claims expense estimate for the event to $74 million, down from $95 million, due to work on earlier claims.
- Oil prices had an extremely volatile week, soaring to $130 a barrel amid supply shortage fears as the US and allies looked to cut off Russian oil and gas. The oil price then fell sharply on peace hopes, before rising again with the UAE stating it will call on its fellow OPEC+ members to boost oil output faster. The oil price finished the week lower as the UAE call was tempered hours later by their energy minister and high US inflation data set off fears of economic contraction.
- New Australian labour market data showed demand for workers spiked after the most recent virus wave receded, with the ANZ job advertisement series jumping 8.4% in February to be 31.5% higher than a year earlier.
- Australian consumer sentiment fell again in March, with the reading below 100, indicating that pessimists outweigh optimists. Rising inflationary pressures are weighing on sentiment, along with recent floods, Russia/Ukraine conflict, and the prospect of higher mortgage rates.
- The February NAB business survey showed a strengthening in business conditions and confidence as new virus cases declined from their early January peaks.
- Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said surging oil prices would produce annual inflation of 4% in Australia this year, above the Bank’s 2-3% target.
- The US central bank chairman has confirmed plans to back a 0.25% rate increase at the March meeting, with the Russia/Ukraine conflict impacting how hard they can go on rate rises in contrast to unrelenting inflationary pressures. The chairman did indicate that he was prepared to raise rates by more than 0.25% in a meeting or meetings if inflation doesn’t subside later this year as expected.
- US jobs rose by 678,000 in February, coming in well above expectations. The unemployment rate fell from 4% to 3.8%, the lowest in 2 years. Average hourly earnings were flat in the month with the annual rate falling from 5.5% to 5.1%.
- US inflation reached a new 4-decade high in February, with the consumer price index up 7.9% from a year earlier. Markets concerned that sustained inflation and lower economic growth could see a period of stagflation.
- The European central bank kept their interest rates unchanged but surprisingly sped up their reduced asset purchasing schedule for the coming months, stating that the program could end in the 3rd quarter if the medium-term inflation outlook will not weaken.
- China announced an economic growth goal of about 5.5% for 2022, it’s lowest target since 1990, but still at the higher end of many economists’ estimates. The higher than expected number, if achieved, could provide a boost to the global economy.
- Sanctions and corporate boycotts on Russia have continued this week as part of a broader retreat by global corporate giants. In response, Russia has threatened to cut natural gas supplies to Europe. The US secretary of state said the US and its allies were looking at a coordinated embargo on Russian oil and gas, whilst ensuring appropriate global supply. Problem is where to get the additional supply from…. Venezuela or Iran….
- China will continue its crackdown on monopolies to ensure fair competition according to their Premier. He also singled out integrated circuits and A.I. industries as priority areas for the government to build up domestic capabilities. President Xi said China could not rely on international markets for food security and should focus on domestic production and farmland protection.
- The US House passed a long-delayed US $1.5 trillion spending bill that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, with emergency coronavirus funding stricken from the bill. The bill also approved US$13.6 billion in emergency spending for the US response to the war in Ukraine.
Chris Lioutas, Director, Insight Investment Consultants
Chris holds the position of asset consultant for Maxim Advisors and is a current sitting member of Maxim's investment committee.
With permission of the author, this article is presented by Maxim Private Clients Pty Ltd ASFL No. 511972
Maxim Private Clients Pty Ltd ABN 47 611 614 398 AFSL No. 511972
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