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ASX overbought; but clear-air ahead APAC brief 7 Feb

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ASX overbought; but clear-air ahead: The ASX200 ought to add another 22 points this morning, according to SPI futures. There is a lot of enthusiasm about Aussie stocks presently – something surely attractive for the contrarians who like to run counter to prevailing market sentiment. It’s been said so much that it’s become facile: a pull-back must come soon to test the strength of the market’s recovery. Of course, it is a matter of when this eventuates – timing is always the toughest thing to predict in financial markets. The ASX200 has become technically overbought on the daily-RSI; however, by that measure, momentum is still intact and pointing to an uptrend. Clear air exists for the market now too, with the next resistance level sitting slightly above 6100.

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ASX has the wind to its back: It’s often said that compared to other major indices, the ASX200 is a trifle boring to trade. It’s a simple formula, well known to most: get a view on the banks, and get a view on the miners, and you’re almost the whole way to knowing where the index will go. The bulls were thrown a bone on both fronts this week. The soft-touch (“pragmatic” is the word being used) recommendations contained within the Hayne Report has set a fire under bank stocks; and the parabolic rally in iron ore prices has the big-miners looking like an attractive long-proposition. It must be stated the market’s rally is broad-based, with volume and breadth in the market solid. But that had already been so, so-far in 2019: it meant little without the bank-bulls charging.

Banks rally, but fundamentals questionable: The rally in the banks this week is arguably in large part a “catch-up” rally – the financials sector had been the only sector in the red for 2019. Bank stocks weren’t being touched, despite the bullish macro-drivers in global equity markets. But with this week’s rally, financials are up 4.50 per cent, against an overall index return of 6.7 per cent; perhaps the banks have rebalanced now with where the ‘big-picture” suggests they ought to be. The next question is however, what upside exists for the banks based on their fundamentals? This will take time to flesh-out, as each of the Big-4 progressively update the markets on their performance – and especially as the political cycle turns the findings of the Hayne Royal Commission into an election issue.

CBA the first to show cards: Markets did receive their first insight into the financial state of the nation’s banks; and fittingly it was the CBA yesterday morning that provided their half-year results. The figures released spoke of a bank de-risking in the face of regulatory pressure, being stifled by higher global funding costs, and struggling with the Australian property market’s downturn. The ratio of Tier-1 capital the bank is holding climbed to 10.8 per cent, and its net-interest-margin shrunk by 4 basis points. Not a disastrous result by any means, however given that credit growth in Australia is still slowing, and the domestic property market seemingly has further to fall, suggesting a turn in the multi-year downtrend in the CBA’s share price will reverse because of diminished of regulatory-risk seems fanciful.

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The RBA becomes “balanced”: The concerns confronting the banks and the Australian economy (as a whole) were addressed in a speech delivered by RBA Governor Philip Lowe yesterday. His view on the economy was decidedly more “balanced” – as the Governor himself explicitly described – than what it had been at any stage in 2018. It was a refreshing take, however one that got market participants moving. What’s been inferred from the speech, is that given the slowdown in the global economy, weakening domestic demand, and issues in consumer credit and the property market, the chances for a rate hike are now even with that of a rate-cut. Gone is the rhetoric that “the next move in interest rates is likely to be higher”: the RBA, for all its optimism, is on standby with policy support if economic conditions deteriorate.

Australian bonds and the AUD: As one can imagine, the Australian Dollar hated the change in the RBA’s outlook. It was the worst performer of all G10 currencies yesterday, diving to an overnight low of 0.7110 against the greenback. The probability of an interest rate cut at some point in 2019 has spiked, to effectively a 60 per cent implied probability. Australian Commonwealth Government Bond yields tanked consequently, with the 2 Year ACGB tumbling 10 basis points, and the 10 Year ACGB shedding 8 points. The fall in yields, though being brought-about by a less-rosy outlook for the economy, is probably supportive of the ASX for now. The drop-in discount rates have made valuations marginally more attractive, while more significantly, the lower Australian Dollar has visibly provided a boost to the market in the short-term.

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Powell and the BOE the highlights today: With less than an hour to trade, Wall Street looks as though it will finish in the red today, following a weak day in European equities, and a solid day across Asia. Overnight news-flow was bereft of market moving headlines, so traders look to the next 24 hours for inspiration. US Fed Chair Jerome Powell speaks today (11.00AM AEDT), but the big focus may well be on the Bank of England tonight. The GBP has lost its lustre this week, as markets come to the realization that a no-deal Brexit is a higher likelihood than what was being priced-in. The BOE are hamstrung at-the-moment, unable to shift policy stance until a Brexit outcome is known. An optimistic but idle central bank is to be expected until it is.

Written by Kyle Rodda - IG Australia

 

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