The impending threat of the coronavirus – and a whole lot of fear – is having a flow-on effect on economic activity and every imaginable industry sector both in Australia and overseas. To do our bit in combating the confusion, nestegg is compiling all the latest economic changes, market developments and expert industry commentary in one place.
13.00 Monday, 23 March
Australia tightens social gathering restrictions, closes businesses
Last night, the government confirmed certain businesses would be restricted from operating from midday today.
These businesses are:
Pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
- Gyms and indoor sporting venues
- Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
- Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
- Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).
The restrictions will be in place for six months.
Schools will remain open, but they will be encouraged to implement online and distance learning.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the measures had been implemented after members of the community had disregarded social distancing measures.
Weekend recap: Monday, 23 March
Government unveils second stimulus; state lockdowns and border closures
The federal government launched its second stimulus package on Sunday, worth $66.1 billion.
- A further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, except for those who are receiving an income support payment that is eligible to receive the coronavirus supplement. This is in addition to the $750 stimulus payment announced last week.
- Early release of superannuation, where the government will allow individuals in financial stress as a result of the coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. This measure is estimated to cost $1.2 billion over the forward estimates period.
- The temporarily reduction of superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure is aimed to benefit retirees by providing them with more flexibility as to how they manage their superannuation assets.
- A reduction of the deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the RBA. As of 1 May 2020, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.
- Boosts of up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not‑for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000, so they can keep operating.
- Regulatory protection and financial support for SMEs, with a new Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme seeing the government guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs. The Government will guarantee up to $20 billion to support $40 billion in SME loans.
- Support for the aviation industry: the government is also providing up to $715 million in support for Australian airlines and airports.
At a state level, NSW and Victoria have indicated they will be moving to a shut-down of "non-essential" services within the next couple of days. Services deemed essential such as supermarkets and petrol stations will remain open.
South Australia and Western Australia both have signaled border closures, with tightened travel restrictions for both domestic and international travellers.
Queensland subsequently closed it's borders to all domestic and international travellers on Tuesday.
15.00 Thursday, 19 March
RBA hands down rate decision
The Reserve Bank of Australia has now reached its effective lowest bottom with regard to the cash rate, dropping it to 0.25 per cent. Read more.
11.25 Thursday, 19 March
70% chance of world recession as China begins to stabilise
Capital Group’s economists has placed equal odds for a world and US recession at 70 per cent.
The team has also noted that the average market decline when accompanied by a recession has been 31 per cent.
Meanwhile China is starting to stabilise two months after the outbreak of COVID-19, with new cases declining and the economy slowly restarting.
“Before the outbreak of COVID-19, there was mounting evidence that the global economy was starting to recover as the headwinds of 2019 defined by a protracted slump in industrial and export activity faded,” David Polak, equity investment director at Capital noted.
While it may be reasonable to ask if anyone may holiday in a cruise ship again, he added, the virus is unlikely to have a great impact on consumer-facing sectors over the long-term.
“Broadly speaking, our portfolio managers and analysts believe that consumer behaviour patterns are unlikely to change much for travel and hospitality industries,” Mr Polak wrote.
“When disposable income increases, we drive farther, fly farther, take longer vacations, spend more, etc. The events of 9/11 did not derail this megatrend, and it is unlikely that COVID-19’s impact will over the long term.”
11.20 Wednesday, 18 March
Trump launches trillion-dollar stimulus package
The President of the United States has announced a stimulus package worth over A$1.6 trillion as it looks to fight against the impacts of the coronavirus.
The package will be targeted at small businesses, the airline industry as well as a sizable cheque going directly into Americans pockets.
United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said, “You can think of this as something like business interruption payments for the American workers.”
“The Americans need cash now, and the President wants to give cash now, and I mean in the next two weeks”.
President Donald Trump praised bipartisan commitment in congress while telling the American people “it’s going to be big and it’s going to be bold”.
10.30 Wednesday, 18 March
PM promotes second stimulus package
At a press conference this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is making headway with further economic measures.
While last week's $20 billion package focused on “stimulus activity”, Mr Morrison said the measures being focused on now are targeted towards small businesses and consumers.
He indicated that the Reserve Bank has been involved in discussions – but will make its own decisions independently.
As for the next round of stimulus policies, “We will announce them once they have been properly designed.”
8.45 Wednesday, 18 March
Morrison government supports aviation industry
The Morrison government has announced $715 million worth of measures specifically aimed at airlines, including waiving certain fees and charges paid by the major carriers.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the news, stating the coronavirus was the “single biggest shock that global aviation has ever experienced”.
16.30 Tuesday, 17 March
Tasmania offers cash to self-isolators
One-off emergency payments will be provided to Tasmanians who are forced to self-isolate as a result of coronavirus.
State Premier Peter Gutwein announced individuals who self-isolate will be provided with $250, while families will be given $1000.
In addition, the government has announced it will be establishing an emergency accommodation support fund of $1 million for individuals and families placed on home quarantine but who are unable to return to their regular place of residence due to self-isolation measures being in place.
It’s part of a $420 million stimulus package proposed by the government that will see $2 million in primary health support provided to GPs and pharmacies, and a $1 million injection into frontline worker support for the provision of accommodation.
A further $1 million in grants will be provided to mental health organisations.
The package also aims to provide relief to small- and medium-sized businesses.
The package will comprise of $20 million in interest-free loans that will be available to small businesses in the hospitality, tourism, seafood and exports sectors and a waiving of payroll tax for the remainder of the financial year for those same businesses.
Other measures include $50 million in local government interest-free loans, and bring forward $50 million of public building maintenance work.
13.00 Tuesday, 17 March
Scamwatch has warned the Australian public about a coronavirus-based SMS scam that is purporting to be from the government.
For more information, see nestegg’s article here.
12.30 Tuesday, 17 March
ABS adds additional measures
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will be providing more information about the economic responses of individuals and businesses as a result of the coronavirus.
It has considered what additional, more up-to-date information it can provide to enhance understanding of the coronavirus’ economic impacts.
It will be providing more data around monthly and quarterly hours worked, interactive employment maps, additional information around business impacts, further retail turnover data and additional analysis of short-term overseas visitors and international students.
According to the ABS, “There are sizeable benefits for the community and governments to have access to information about the economic responses of individuals and businesses that is as up to date as possible.”
11.25 Tuesday, 17 March
NSW announces stimulus
The NSW government has announced a $2.3 billion package over the next six months, with a substantial amount for the next three months.
The stimulus package includes NSW Health receiving an extra $700 million to boost a range of services, including doubling the capacity of intensive care units across the state.
The state government will waive $450 million in allocated payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months.
There will be $250 million for public schools and state-owned buildings to employ more cleaners as well as $80 million for fees and charges to be waived for small businesses such as cafes.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wants a no regrets policy, doing “whatever it takes to keep our people safe”.
9.49 Tuesday, 17 March
Will all business survive?
As with any global downturn, the chief economist said some businesses are likely to fail – “It’s to be expected.”
“There’s no question it’s a very tough time right now.”
9.45 Tuesday, 17 March
“We think it’s going to be a very sharp downturn in Q2 across the board...
Expect Q2 to be the peak of the downturn, in Australia, but likely across the world too.
The speed of the Chinese rebound “suggests it will take time for activity to fully recover”.
We do expect a very sharp fall in consumption.
But, “long-run impact of coronavirus likely to be small” – Dr Hunter expects “recovery to materialise”.
“The panic will abate once activity is able to return to normal,” she said.
There is every reason to think recovery will occur in the next one to two years.
9.35 Tuesday, 17 March
The problem is cash flow
This is why packages are being put in place to support cash flow.
Australia’s stimulus package was a “big package – really good to see”, according to the chief economist.
“The challenge though – it’s not enough, it’s not going to be enough.”
Dr Hunter has highlighted Germany’s more recent implementation of a near “limitless” stimulus package for small and medium-sized businesses.
She says the government will pull through with a much more substantial package – likely tomorrow (18/3).
9.32 Tuesday, 17 March
RBA ‘stands ready’
It expects to use quantitative easing (QE).
Cash rate cut and QE will occur – at the latest – on Thursday.
The primary aim for the RBA right now is to maintain “the proper functioning” of financial institutions, Dr Hunter said.
In normal times, what they are normally trying to do is stimulate demand, generate employment and hit inflation targets.
We will be in an “ultra-supportive” position when the pandemic is over to stimulate activity with super low interest rates.
9.27 Tuesday, 17 March
Policy responses so far
Monetary response: Central banks have moved “decisively to loosen monetary policy”.
Noting the recent Fed Reserve move to the effective lower bound, Dr Hunter is expecting the RBA to also make another cut this week.
The provision of liquidity in short-term lending markets is also occurring, with the chief economist stating: “It’s comforting that we learnt during the GFC that a rapid response is very appropriate and necessary.”
9.23 Tuesday, 17 March
Dr Hunter says GDP isn’t likely to bounce back until 2021 – this is going to be something of a “long tail”.
At this stage, China is our best example of what a recovery may look like, the chief economist said.
9.20 Tuesday, 17 March
‘Economy not expected to avoid recession’
According to Dr Hunter, this is despite last week’s stimulus package.
Main impact channels will be through consumer spending and business investment.
9.18 Tuesday, 17 March
Generally speaking, retail hit is likely to be significant and negative
“Combined impact of confidence shock and weaker income growth set to weigh on consumer spending.”
Retail environment has already been very challenging – Dr Hunter said “it’s going to get significantly worse”.
9.16 Tuesday, 17 March
‘Substantial negative impact’
Business investment in Australia is expected to be hit hard.
But for FY20, we’re only really looking at one quarter of drag.
Some of the decline “was already baked into our forecasting”, Dr Hunter said – especially for residential building.
9.09 Tuesday, 17 March
Confidence has taken a knock
BIS Oxford Economics’ chief economist, Dr Sarah Hunter, is providing an update.
Tourism and travel will be the worst hit sectors.
The higher education sectors is one of the more well-insulated sectors right now. Education as a sector should be relatively insulated despite its previous rocky start to the year.
MORE TO COME
17.00 Monday, 16 March
ASX biggest falls since ’87
The S&P 200 index has fallen 9.70 per cent to 5,002 points as investors witnessed the worst one day sell-off since Black Friday in 1987.
To combat this The Reserve Bank of Australia has announced it “stands ready” to pump more money into Australia’s financial system to keep it functioning as investors continue to panic due to the coronavirus pandemic.
16.45 Monday, 16 March
WA freezes household costs
The Western Australian government has announced a freeze on household fees and charges until at least 1 July 2021.
The freeze will apply to entire “household basket”: electricity, water, motor vehicle charges, emergency services levy and public transport fares.
The Energy Assistance Payment will also be doubled to support vulnerable WA residents.
According to the statement, an allocation of $402 million in the 2020-21 budget will go towards paying for the freeze.
It’s part of a $516 million stimulus package announced today by the state government.
Another $114 million in measures will be implemented to support the state’s small and medium businesses, inclusive of a one-off grant and payroll tax relief.
For Premier Mark McGowan, “We are in uncharted territory, and there’s no doubt our economy is going to feel the effects of COVID-19.”
“As a responsible government, we must respond and we must provide certainty to both businesses and households,” he said.
“These measures will provide relief to WA families, seniors and small businesses to further support our economy to withstand the headwinds we face.”
13.15 Monday, 16 March
What are the banks doing?
nestegg has compiled a list of actions being undertaken by some of the banks to support customers experiencing difficulty due to coronavirus. We’ll add to the list here as more information becomes available.
10.05 Monday, 16 March
Australia’s financial system is resilient, ‘well placed to deal with the effects of COVID-19’
A statement from the Council of Financial Regulators has indicated that Australia’s banking system is well capitalised and is in a strong liquidity position.
With substantial buffers available to be drawn down if required to support the economy, the council said the funding position of the banking system is strong.
A meeting of major lenders later this week will consider how households and businesses can be supported through this “challenging” period.
9.45 Monday, 16 March
ASIC takes equity market action
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is directing large equity market participants to limit the number of trades they execute each day until further notice.
It comes after “a particularly large increase in trades last Friday, 13 March”.
ASIC said that while this did not disrupt market operations on Friday, there was a significant backlog of work undertaken by exchanges and trading participants over the weekend.
The action will require high volume participants and their clients to actively manage trade volumes, but ASIC said this is not expected to limit the ability of retail consumers to execute trades.
According to the commission, Australian markets have been strong and resilient over the last two weeks despite coronavirus concerns.
It’s calling the action pre-emptive and intended to maintain those high standards.
16.10 Friday, 13 March
CommSec has tweeted out that the ASX 200 recorded its largest swing on record today.
Closing at 5,539, the Australian S&P/ASX 200 managed to turn around an 8 per cent decline that had been observed at session lows.
Overall, it was a 666-point turnaround.
12.28 Friday, 13 March
European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve have made moves
Fidelity International has weighed in on the actions from both the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve overnight.
European Central Bank (ECB): The bank has unveiled a targeted stimulus package.
According to Anna Stupnytska, the global head of macro, "the ECB's measures seem to be more aggressive than was generally expected and, arguably, more radical than those seen so far from its counterparts int he US and UK".
She said it was a “smart move” that the ECB chose not to cut rates.
It signals "a change in the reaction function and flexibility in their policy approach in light of an unexpected shock. Rather they chose to focus on more targeted areas where help will be needed".
Ms Stupnytska said that "the combination of a boost to the QE programme focused on private assets, together with very attractive TLTRO terms - whereby banks will effectively be paid to borrow from the ECB and lend to the private sector - is unambiguously a step in the right direction".
In saying that, it remains to be seen whether these policy measures will be sufficient to see the Euro area through the downturn over the next few months.
“An area-wide recession is a highly likely outcome but whether it will only be of 'technical' nature depends not just on the virus trajectory and monetary policy backstop but also on fiscal policy,” she continued.
“In this regard, we are yet to see a more aggressive push towards fiscal easing across the member states. If this is not the time to break fiscal rules and open the taps, then when? After all, the future of the Euro area may, yet again, be at stake.”
US Federal Reserve: Fidelity International's portfolio manager for fixed income, Tim Foster, observed that the Fed "has unleashed the sort of measures last seen during the financial crisis of 2008".
Flagging that it plans to pump up to a trillion dollars a week into the financial system, the manager said the aim is "to ensure there is sufficient liquidity for banks so they can continue lending to businesses suffering from a collapse in economic activity" in the fallout from the oil price war.
“The Fed is also resuming quantitative easing – buying up billions of dollars’ worth of bonds – which should help areas of the market where liquidity had tightened recently. The move comes little more than a week after the Fed cut interest rates by 50 basis points, which failed to stabilise markets,” he continued.
Whether this massive liquidity injection can calm market fears remains to be seen, according to Mr Foster.
“But it is certainly a powerful statement of intent.”
It’s led him to predict that ultra-low interest rates and asset purchases will be with us for a long time yet.
9.45 Friday, 13 March
ATO offers support
The Australian Taxation Office has announced that it will be taking steps to assist Australians experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Businesses are being encouraged by the commissioner of taxation, Chris Jordan, to get in touch with the ATO to discuss relief options.
“Once you contact us, we’ll tailor a support plan for your needs and circumstances,” he said.
“Support measures could include deferral of some payments, quicker access to GST refunds, and options to enter low interest payment plans for existing or future tax debts.”
Outside of business, the ATO said it will work with individuals who are experiencing financial hardship.
It said it will apply appropriate tax relief measures for serious and exceptional circumstances, such as where people can't pay for food or accommodation.
Unlike recent bushfire relief measures, which were applied automatically where residents fell into geographic boundaries, the ATO said assistance measures for people impacted by COVID-19 won't automatically be implemented.
9.30 Friday, 13 March
US markets fall
The Dow Jones fell almost 10 per cent overnight, as markets reacted to new travel bans. The Dow Jones closed at 21,200.62 – a loss of 9.99 per cent for the day's trading.
9.15 Friday, 13 March
No budget surplus
“Spending this amount of money this quickly does mean that we will not be able to deliver a surplus in 2019-20 as previously forecast.”
Those are the words of the Senator, and Minister for Finance the Hon. Mathias Cormann talking about the government's stimulus plan.
“In the circumstances we are facing as a nation, we are absolutely certain that doing what we are doing to protect the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians is what must be done right now.”
17.00 Thursday, 12 March
The Australian S&P/ASX200 has fallen more than 7 per cent to close at 5,304.6 after opening this morning at 5,725.90.
It's a drop of 421.3 points, with the fall partially credited to the declaration of coronavirus as a “pandemic” by the World Health Organisation and US President Donald Trump's announcement of a temporary ban on travel to the United States from Europe.
12.48 Thursday, 12 March
‘Is fiscal stimulus enough?’: Bloomberg Economics
“Many people are still wrapping their heads around the health impacts, [so] the economic impacts are going to ripple for quite some time.”
Mr McIntyre was asked whether he would have preferred to see a wider cash handout compared to what has been proposed today by the government as part of its stimulus measures.
“I do worry – if from a health perspective we are requiring people to self-quarantine, practice social isolation measures, working from home, disruptions to business – [that] now’s not a time to put cash in people’s hands.”
“More broadly, I think that the time for that might come once we have managed to contain and flatten the virus curve and seen that outbreaks of the virus, or new cases are becoming more manageable for health systems.”
Considering cash-style handouts as “yet to come” in government stimulus, Mr McIntyre said that might occur later, when there’s more emphasis on getting the economy moving again, once “a much broader range of the population has encountered, [and] defeated the virus and built up a natural immunity”.
When you really want to get demand going, “then you put money in household hands”.
12.26 Thursday, 12 March
‘Is fiscal stimulus enough?’: Bloomberg Economics
“COVID-19 isn’t the only game in town, and that’s what Russia and Saudi Arabia have taught us.”
The drought is also weighing heavily on the Australian economy, Mr McIntyre noted, with the smallest summer crop expected in 40 years this year.
As a result, “there’ll be a range of supply chain issues coming through”, he has predicted, taking into account coronavirus, oil price wars and the drought.
12.16 Thursday, 12 March
‘Is fiscal stimulus enough?’: Bloomberg Economics
In response to a question querying 'which industrial sector will recover the quickest after the coronavirus?', Mr McIntyre has considered commercial and residential construction as capable of a quick bounce back.
He has also flagged mining as posting strong results recently, taking into consideration our national accounts - "We have seen a record level of expenditure going on with respect to gold".
The economist has also flagged strong results for copper.
12.08 Thursday, 12 March
‘Is fiscal stimulus enough?’: Bloomberg Economics
We're going to need further stimulus in the near future, the economist has flagged.
"It's the first shot," he has said of today's government announcement.
He's flagged New Zealand's additional capital investment for 2020-21 through to 2022-23, as instigated last year - and prior to coronavirus - as a good example of what needs to be implemented here.
12.05 Thursday, 12 March
‘Is fiscal stimulus enough?’: Bloomberg Economics
Bloomberg Economics economist James McIntyre is currently commenting on whether the government's fiscal stimulus measures will be enough to stave off a recession.
He's noted the size of the stimulus package is not dissimilar to that of Kevin Rudd's during the GFC - accounting for inflation etc.
MORE TO COME.
11.30 Thursday, 12 March
Prime Minister announces stimulus
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have announced a $20 billion stimulus package to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Read more here.
10.30 Thursday, 12 March
Take a step back
An update on current market conditions from legalsuper has grabbed our attention here at nestegg.
It reads: "When panic drives markets, it is wise to take a step back and consider events and information in context and with calm."
"While the duration of the current situation cannot be predicted with certainty, many commentators are forecasting that a protracted slow-down due to the coronavirus is likely to be short-lived. Potentially, as short as a couple of months."
legalsuper has indicated that several factors could contribute to stabilisation over time, including improved medical understanding of the virus, improved public awareness and more co-ordinated efforts by governments to manage risk.
"Super is a long-term investment," it has re-iterated.
"In times of volatility it is important to be cautious of crystallising short term losses; remember to consider your long term perspective, and seek advice from a qualified financial adviser," it advised.
10.24 Thursday, 12 March
The S&P/ASX200 closed yesterday at 5,725.90.
As at 10:24am today, it's 1.75 per cent lower - now at 5,628.20.
16.00 Wednesday, 11 March
Opposition leader critical of virus response
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has criticised the government saying it needs to "lift its game" in response to the coronavirus.
Mr Albanese said “right now, we need stimulus and strategies to assist specific individuals such as casual workers, as well as our most vulnerable sectors such as small business and the tourism sector.”
He also used the speech to reiterate a call to bring forward Stage 2 of the government’s tax cuts, increase business investment and infrastructure spending, and increase the Newstart allowance.
The comments come as the Federal Government prepares to unveil a multi-billion dollar virus stimulus that will likely include investment incentives but steer clear of any ‘helicopter money’ style handout similar to that seen under the Rudd Government. Mr Albanese praised the use of helicopter payments, saying Mr Rudd's $900 cash handout was “revered internationally”.
9.55 Wednesday, 11 March
Stimulus to instigate stock recovery
There's an expectation that global stocks will recover considerably by the end of the year, as news of stimulus policies filters through world markets.
According to deVere Group's founder and CEO, Nigel Green, “the stimulus packages within major economies, together with the practical measures being taken to limit the spread of coronavirus - such as Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte placing the entire country on lockdown - plus China signalling that the outbreak has peaked with a visit to Wuhan by President Xi, will serve to calm markets."
Shares in the Asia-Pacific region have rebounded, while the European indices opened higher on Tuesday - already showing signs of recovery from Monday's dramatic losses following the weekend's news of a jump in certified coronavirus cases and fallout from the oil price war.
China's method of stimulus is an investment plan that incorporates gas pipelines and nuclear power plants, while U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged a "major" economic relief package, which could include a payroll tax cut.
The UK Chancellor is expected to announce a raft of emergency methods for the support of businesses in his first budget, expected to be delivered today, while Australia's billion-dollar stimulus package is likely to include one-off cash payments to some groups.
As a result, Mr Green said he expects global stock markets – "which are actively seeking bullish signals - to have recovered significantly before the year end".
“Right now investors, such as myself, are using this wave of volatility to review their portfolios where necessary and, importantly, to drip-feed new money into the market," he outlined.
The CEO noted a trend where “a growing number of investors are going to be taking advantage of the current lower entry points to enhance their portfolios in the near-term”.
“Investors need to ensure that they remain in the markets with well-diversified portfolios and should consider topping up their portfolios sooner rather than later in order to create, grow and protect their wealth,” he concluded.
12.50 Tuesday, 10 March
Is my superannuation safe?
Despite huge falls recorded in the Australian share market and beyond, it's a "bad idea" to attempt to move your super around in an attempt to counter coronavirus concerns.
Read more here.
12.30 Tuesday, 10 March
‘In turbulent waters, stay in the boat’
Despite a turbulent three weeks seeing markets fall by $440 billion domestically and $5.7 trillion in the US, long term investors are being told not to panic.
According to Origin Asset Management’s partner John Birkhold Australia's impressive run without a downturn is working against investors now who are unsure how to react in down markets.
“The problem with a long-run bull market is that investors forget what can happen when things go badly. The last few weeks have been a stark reminder of the implicit downside potential of equity markets. Market implications vary, depending on whether you’re a short-term speculator or a long-term investor. With the increasing likelihood of a global recession, all market participants could get badly hurt, particularly if trading on margin,” Mr Birkhold said.
Long term investors are being told to ride the wave even if investors take heavily losses in the short term.
“Long-term investors need to remember that in turbulent waters, it’s usually best to stay in the boat rather than trying to change strategies. However, investors need to be able to withstand another drop, particularly given that markets typically fall 30-40 per cent during recession,” Mr Birkhold concluded.
10.20 Tuesday, 10 March
Qantas triggers cost reductions
Australia’s most recognisable airline is feeling the pinch as traveller numbers decline.
In addition to cutting capacity across a number of its serviced routes, Qantas has announced it will be triggering a number of cost-reduction measures at a corporate level.
Annual management bonuses for the year have been set to zero for FY20.
In addition, the board will take a 30 per cent reduction in fees while group executive management will also take a 30 per cent pay cut.
From a financial perspective, it was reported that “the group is taking decisive action to mitigate the significant adverse impact of the coronavirus on demand, including longer-range capacity cuts that improve the business’s ability to reduce costs”.
However, “given the dynamic and uncertain nature of this situation, it is not possible to provide meaningful guidance at this time on the size of that impact on group earnings for the remainder of FY20”.
Qantas has asserted it is in a “strong position”.
To maintain this position, the board has decided to cancel an off-market buyback first announced last month to preserve $150 million in cash.
An interim dividend of 13.5 cents per share will still be paid to shareholders on 9 April.
Weighing in on the group’s positioning, CEO Alan Joyce noted that in the past fortnight, they’ve seen “a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues”.
“We expect lower demand to continue for the next several months, so rather than taking a piecemeal approach, we’re cutting capacity out to mid-September,” he outlined.
“This improves our ability to reduce costs as well as giving more certainty to the market, customers and our people.
“We retain the flexibility to cut further or to put capacity back in as this situation develops.”
He did acknowledge that it’s “hard to predict how long this situation will last”.
Mr Joyce said this is why the group is “moving now to make sure we remain well positioned”.
“But we know it will pass, and we’ll be well positioned to take advantage of opportunities when it does.”
9.00 Tuesday, 10 March
PM warns COVID-19 poses bigger risk to the Australian economy than the GFC
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled some of the details for the planned stimulus package during a keynote speech at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit.
He argued the impact of the COVID-19 was a global health crisis that could have a potentially greater impact on the economy than the global financial crisis (GFC).
Speaking about the GFC, Mr Morrison said “the impacts were centred on the North Atlantic and back, then China was in a position to cushion the blow”.
The government has urged for “patriotism”, highlighting the importance large companies have towards staff and paying smaller businesses and suppliers in the coming months.
Describing the crisis as a “national interest moment”, Mr Morrison outlined seven principles the government’s stimulus package is based on, which is speculated to be worth $10 billion.
The $10 billion will be directed particularly to keep people in work and maintaining cash flow for small and medium-sized businesses, with measures including subsidies, wages and training, an investment incentive and support for the tourism industry which has been hit hard from cancelled holidays.
The seven principles on which Morrison said the package is based are:
- measures must be proportionate to the economic shock and the impact on the economy
- they need to be timely and scalable — that is, able to be adjusted as needed
- the response must be targeted to specific issues, support those most affected, and delivered where it will be most effective
- the response has to be aligned with monetary policy and other governments’ responses (Morrison points out the government is working closely with the Reserve Bank, which cut interest rates last week)
- where possible, existing means of delivery should be used, rather than rushing out new programs as in the GFC
- measures must be temporary and have an exit strategy — not “baked into the bottom-line for years… keeping the budget under water”
- measures lifting productivity must be favoured to promote stronger growth
“By following these principles, we will protect the structural integrity of the budget and maximise the impact of our measures to protect the livelihoods of Australians and our economy. When the economy bounces back, our budget will also bounce back,” Mr Morrison said.
16.00 Monday, 9 March
Coronavirus: A supply and demand shock for oil markets
Following a 7.3 per cent loss on the ASX 200 for investors in Aussie equities, the worst-case scenario appears to be unfolding for oil markets, suggest industry experts.
According to Fidelity International’s analyst and portfolio manager, James Trafford, a number of factors are weighing on the medium-term price for oil.
This includes “whether a political solution can be attained to resolve the apparent OPEC+ stand-off, and how quickly the virus-hit areas return to normal levels of demand. But in the near term, it looks entirely possible we could drop to cash cost of production (of Brent at around $30 per barrel) or even test the low of around $27 a barrel seen in 2016,” Mr Trafford said.
“So far, oil-related equities are tracking the oil price lower. We would eventually expect to see a bottoming out in stocks before the commodity itself: this is because equities are an anticipatory asset class which must look forward to a future recovery, whereas the commodity market has to clear the current supply and demand dynamics.
“But that bottoming will require some stabilisation in the coronavirus data points, or signs of a policy rapprochement among oil producers. In the meantime, investors should brace for volatility.”
13.00 Monday, 9 March
Global oil price collapse: Is coronavirus the cause?
The coronavirus is just one of a myriad of reasons put forward behind today’s global oil price collapse.
Prices have fallen by as much as 30 per cent, from around $US45 a barrel to $US30 a barrel, thanks to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and deal collapse that saw Saudi Arabia slash its own prices.
According to BetaShares chief economist David Bassanese, the collapse “is symptomatic of chronic oversupply problems in the industry”.
He said “holding a cartel together is never easy, but it has been made harder by weakening global demand due to both coronavirus concerns and an ongoing trend to more fuel-efficient cars”.
The effect of weaker oil prices could spell trouble for the US high-yield bond market, according to the economist, “as around 10 per cent of the market is accounted for by energy companies, which are likely to experience a further significant blowout in spreads to US Treasuries”.
On the flipside, Mr Bassanese said the good news is that “lower oil prices are a windfall to consumers, which could in turn help support consumer spending during the next few turbulent months”.
And with lower oil prices having an affect on inflation globally, the economist said it will provide certain central banks with “even more incentive to add more monetary stimulus in the months ahead, most likely via direct asset purchases”.
10.00 Monday, 9 March
Frydenberg on stimulus package
Josh Frydenberg has announced the government’s stimulus package will be worth about $10 billion, with a proposal to cabinet being presented tomorrow.
Mr Frydenberg highlighted he wanted the stimulus package to make employees feel confident about their job security, while offering further support in the May budget if required.
“It’s about focusing on investment jobs and supporting the cash flow of business, but obviously, we will also have the budget in a matter of weeks after the announcement to continue to provide the support the economy where it needs it,” Mr Frydenberg told media.
The Treasurer is canvassing a range of options to boost household spending; however, the stimulus will be business and jobs focused.
9.00 Monday, 9 March
Coronavirus to slug APAC $319b
The fallout from the coronavirus is tipped to cost $319 billion in losses for the Asia-Pacific economies, according to S&P Global Ratings.
A report from S&P has forecast that the APAC region will slow to 4 per cent in 2020, the lowest since the global financial crisis due to the impacts of the coronavirus.
The multinational believes a U-shaped recovery will start later in the year, but by then, economic damage in the region will reach $US211 billion ($319 billion).
Shaun Roache, Asia-Pacific chief economist at S&P Global Ratings, said the loss will be distributed across the household, non-financial corporate, financial and sovereign sectors, with the burden to be on governments to soften the blow with public resources.
“Some economic activities will be lost forever, especially for the service sector,” Mr Roache said.
Australia is also exposed, with S&P forecasting its growth for the year to touch 1.2 per cent, more than half of what it was in 2019 at 2.7 per cent.
“Australia’s most disrupted sectors employ a large share of workers which will weaken both the labour market and consumer confidence,” Mr Roache said.
Services in Australia account for a large slice of employment, the report noted, with accommodation and catering being sensitive to tourism and discretionary consumer spending.
12.40 Friday, 6 March
Retail conditions could see ‘substantial worsening'
Commenting on the most recent release of ABS retail trade data, BIS Oxford Economics’ chief economist, Dr Sarah Hunter, has expressed an expectation for “substantial worsening in retail conditions in the near term”.
Although drag from bushfires has eased alongside improved weather conditions, Dr Hunter indicated that “the ban on arrivals from China and other countries will weigh heavily on the sector”.
In addition, the economist flagged that “we are likely to see more subdued spending by locals, as concerns about the risk of infection rise”.
“The latest data and information suggests that the economy is on course for a contraction in Q1, and the risk of a recession has risen significantly,” Dr Hunter said.
“We expect to see further cuts in the cash rate and a fiscal stimulus package to be announced in the near term.”
12.20 Friday, 6 March
‘Near-term recession risk to U-shaped recovery”
A statement by Janus Henderson Investors’ investment strategist, Frank Uhlenbruch, stated the supply-side shock will be temporary, with either a V- or U-shaped recovery likely to follow.
The widening reach of the COVID-19 virus has changed the outlook from a moderate recovery in world and domestic growth (responding to a lessening in geopolitical tensions and monetary easing over 2019) to one more uncertain, with elevated near-term recession risks.
The virus is a supply-side shock, with output and hours worked lost as regions are quarantined. Once the virus has passed, production will recommence and hours worked may be boosted by overtime as producers try to catch up on lost production and fill back orders. Such a shock creates a “V”-shaped profile for growth. A sequencing of these outbreaks over time when added together could create a more “U”-shaped profile for growth. We are currently in the discovery phase of how deep the Vs are and how many there will be.
11.15 Friday, 6 March
‘The scale of the economic impact’ will depend
Providing the opening statement for the March 2020 Senate Estimates, Dr Steven Kennedy, in his position as secretary to the Treasury, has indicated that “the scale of the economic impact on Australia and the world will depend on a number of factors”.
He has listed these as: “the extent to which the virus spreads; how quickly it spreads; disruptions to ports and seaborne freight; and should COVID-19 become more prevalent in Australia, the direct impact it has on domestic economic activity”.
He reiterated the preliminary assessment stance and the expectation for the virus to detract at least half of a percentage point from growth in the March quarter 2020.
“This preliminary estimate takes into account the direct impacts on tourism, international education exports and some exchange rate effects. It does not include supply chain disruptions or other potential broader impacts.”
But, beyond this preliminary estimate, Dr Kennedy said: “It is too early to tell, given the uncertainties, what the full impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus will be on the Australian economy.”
14.25 Thursday, 5 March
The trouble with travel insurance
With domestic and international tourism suffering a massive hit, and many Australians concerned about the viability of their future travel plans, comparison platform Finder has undertaken some useful scrutiny of travel insurance policies.
It has looked at the product disclosure statements of 32 Australian insurers, which found 14 companies exclude cover if a claim is related to an epidemic, a pandemic, or even the threat of either.
Ten policies included some cover for claims related to epidemics and pandemics, while eight had no direct explanation of how such a situation would be treated.
For anyone who has taken out travel insurance for an upcoming trip, Finder insurance specialist Sophie Walsh has advised that it’s not all doom and gloom.
She noted that “some brands that do have exclusion clauses relating to pandemics have issued travel alerts stating that they may pay some claims related to the coronavirus”.
She has recommended contacting your insurer and keeping up to date with travel alerts for the most accurate information.
Ms Walsh also warned anyone who has a trip coming up but has not yet locked in any insurance, or anyone who might be thinking about booking a trip and taking advantage of rock-bottom prices, that “even if you do book travel insurance, you won’t be eligible to make a claim related to the coronavirus now that it’s a known event”.
“However, it’s still worth taking out travel insurance because it will cover you for other things like non-related medical expenses.”
10.52 Thursday, 5 March
Coronavirus concerns could linger for a little while
In the United States, the “vigorous sell-off” that has occurred has been the most rapid (six days) and largest (12 per cent) sell-off since the Great Depression, according to a fund manager.
SG Hiscock & Company’s managing director, Stephen Hiscock, has noted how many people are asking, “Is this a time to buy? Or is there further to go, in which case, should we be selling even now?”
“This, unfortunately, is only a question that can be answered in hindsight,” he offered.
Mr Hiscock said he expects coronavirus concerns to linger for some time, thanks to four major factors:
- The rate of infections peak and slow.
- There’s a co-ordinated global response such as a G20 meeting, “which will probably require the WHO to first declare it a global pandemic”.
- It gets off the front pages of newspapers.
- A cure is announced — hopefully, soon!
There’s an expectation “that the March quarter economic numbers will be terrible, and we expect this is not fully reflected in company earnings”, with Mr Hiscock acknowledging that they expect to see company earnings downgrades in coming months as impacts become clearer.
This will be seen particularly in the travel, hospitality, discretionary retail and education sectors.
In addition, “the pivot in Federal Reserve rhetoric and Australian government commentary over the weekend highlights central banks and governments will likely stimulate economies via a combination of interest rate cuts and spending programs — perhaps starting in the next couple of weeks”.
Mr Hiscock is also anticipating further potential hits to the Australian markets before a stronger equity market eventually kicks in.
“Despite the recent falls, the Australian market is still up more than 10 per cent, plus dividends, since 31 December 2018, and despite the sell-off, valuations still remain somewhat elevated,” he offered.
According to the fund manager, he expects the harsh impacts of the coronavirus “are likely to be short to medium term, not long term”.
He predicted that “at some stage, the effects of the virus will subside and the market will regain some of these losses”.
9.00 Thursday, 5 March
Treasury cuts growth forecasts, launches stimulus package
Treasury boss Steven Kennedy said the coronavirus could have sliced at least half a percentage point from the economic growth in Australia, due to the impacts on tourism, education and the Australian dollar.
Mr Kennedy believes the flow-on impact on the economy will last until at least the June quarter, stating, “There are a range of possible scenarios beyond the March quarter.”
The Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has announced a billion-dollar stimulus package to counter these economic headwinds which is expected to include tax incentives to help businesses as well as tax deductions on new investments.
“The package of measures will be responsible and will be scalable,” Mr Frydenberg told media this morning.
17.15 Wednesday, 4 March
Coronavirus ‘affecting economies the world over’
The Treasurer has reiterated Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments regarding the creation of a coronavirus support package at a press conference in Canberra.
Lauding the government’s recent use of “responsible fiscal management”, he said it had given them the flexibility to respond to these economic shocks.
He also quoted the OECD for its singling out of Australia and Germany “as two countries that could respond to the coronavirus with additional fiscal measures without endangering debt sustainability”.
While noting challenges with the coronavirus as “still evolving”, the Treasurer went on to classify the risk to the economy from the coronavirus as “substantial” but also noted its economic impacts worldwide.
Mr Frydenberg said he will be holding a phone call tonight, 4 March, with the International Monetary Fund for an update on the spread of the coronavirus and its economic impact.
“Once that call is completed tonight, Treasury will finalise tomorrow morning their estimate of the impact on the March quarter” to be presented to Senate Estimates tomorrow morning, Thursday, 5 March.
He said: “When it comes to the impact on the March and subsequent quarters, obviously, we would like to mitigate the negative economic impact of the coronavirus, and that is why the Prime Minister has foreshadowed that we will be announcing a series of measures which are designed to keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs.”
15.00 Wednesday, 4 March
Global markets remain exposed
PGIM Fixed Income’s chief economist and head of macroeconomic research, Nathan Sheets, has downgraded the growth in China, Japan from (0.8 of a percentage point to -0.7 of a percentage point) and South Korea (from -1.0 per cent to -3 per cent) in the first quarter due to the coronavirus impact.
Domestically, he believes Australia will be left exposed due to a reduction in Chinese imports.
“In terms of supply chain effects, we found that South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have significant exposure to a reduction in Chinese imports. The United States is far less exposed, but, surprisingly, more so than Europe. China’s share of value-added global consumption is either first or second among most tradable categories, including textiles, apparel and leather, and basic metals,” Mr Sheets said.
13.40 Wednesday, 4 March
‘Risk of recession has increased materially’: Economist
In her 4 March analysis of Australia’s national accounts data, BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Dr Sarah Hunter has looked at the broader economic picture to note that the coronavirus outbreak “is putting a substantial strain on the global economy, through disruption to tourism, higher education, global supply chains and financial markets”.
She further commented that the hit to services exports and emerging disruption in supply chains, coupled with the earlier drag from Australia’s bushfire crisis, “will likely result in a contraction in Q1, and the risk of a recession has increased materially”.
She acknowledged the RBA’s stepping in by taking the cash rate down to 0.5 of a percentage point and the signalling of fiscal support provisions from the federal government.
However, Dr Hunter went on to predict that “with the flow of data and information about the outbreak set to get worse before it gets better, it’s likely that there will be further corrections in asset markets”.
“We expect the RBA to cut the cash rate again in the near term, to 0.25 [of a percentage point].”
13.05 Wednesday, 4 March
Call for targeted stimulus
The government has been called upon to loosen its purse strings to help counteract the coronavirus effects.
It was a position also alluded to over in the United States, where Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell noted the requirement for a “multi-faceted response”.
Speaking to nestegg sister platform Accountants Daily, CPA Australia’s general manager of external policy, Paul Drum, expressed a belief that the government will need to consider a targeted stimulus package now.
While recognising that stimulus measures of these types “also come at a cost to government — sending them into or increasing their deficits”, Mr Drum said “something needs to be done as businesses are feeling the pinch from both the bushfires and now the repercussions from the coronavirus”.
He pointed to Hong Kong’s recent cash handout of $2,000 to every adult permanent resident and Singapore’s cash payout of up to $300 for anyone aged 21 or older, and suggested Australia should consider a similar move as a short-term measure.
“This could include cash to individuals similar to the Rudd government money during the GFC. Experience shows the most effective stimulus measures are aimed at individuals and households,” Mr Drum outlined.
“Alternatively, the Australian government could retrospectively increase the low and middle-income tax offset from $1,080 to a higher amount for the 2019–20 year — to ensure money gets out now.”
Has the US misfired on cash rate reduction?
JPMorgan Asset Management has weighed in on the “surprising” decision by the Federal Reserve to reduce the official cash rate by 0.5 of a percentage point.
It’s considered that the move has actually backfired due to falling market sentiment.
According to the asset management group, the Federal Reserve may have missed the mark by reducing the rates two weeks prior to its next scheduled meeting.
JPMorgan global market strategist Kerry Craig noted investors had expected a co-ordinated response from a fiscal and monetary point of view from a G7 call.
Instead, investors got an out-of-cycle reduction, which saw the Australian markets open 1.3 per cent on the opening bell.
“The US Federal Reserve’s attempt to surprise the market may have misfired. While the action was intended to steady market confidence, the sharpness of their reaction and the off-schedule timing of the move could be interpreted as the Fed being much more concerned about the economic impact than first thought,” Mr Craig said.
On the other hand, JPMorgan’s global head of fixed income, Bob Michele, did note the impact the decision did have on bond markets, considering that the out-of-cycle decision may have been the right call.
“The Federal Reserve’s intra-meeting cut in rates by 50 bps was a fair and appropriate response to the impact of COVID-19. While Chairman Powell correctly acknowledged that the rate cut would not slow the rate of infection or fix the broken supply chain, he did indicate it would boost household and business confidence and help avoid a tightening in financial conditions,” Mr Michele said.
“What it does do is to lower the cost of funding across the US economy.
“We have seen the impact from this last year when the Fed cut rates by 75 bps.”
He noted that “it led to a wave of mortgage refinancings, which ultimately helped to drive increased consumer spending”.
“We expect a similar impact this time. As quarantining shuts down parts of economies, it is important for consumption to be stimulated somewhere,” Mr Michele stated.
The United States eased monetary policy hours after the Reserve Bank of Australia announced an official cash rate reduction.
US drops cash rate
A matter of hours after the Reserve Bank of Australia announced it would be cutting the official cash rate — and after President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter via Twitter — the United States also indicated it would be easing its own monetary policy.
In a surprising out-of-cycle move, the Federal Reserve cut its official cash rate by 0.5 of a percentage point to a target range of 1 to 1.25 from a previous benchmark of 1.5 to 1.75.
It’s the first time it has taken such a step out of regular decision-making since the global financial crisis.
Trump weighs in on RBA decision
Tuesday, 3 March
Prime Minister promises economic plan
At a press conference at Parliament House on Tuesday, 3 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated the commencement of an “economic response” from the government.
He outlined that Treasury is working closely together with the other relevant agencies of government “to address the boost that we believe will be necessary, which I will have more to say about once we’ve worked through the details of that plan”.
“It will be a targeted plan. It will be a measured plan. It will be a scalable plan,” he said.
“We will ensure that we do not make the same mistakes of previous stimulus measures that have been put in place.”
Noting that this health crisis “is different from a global financial crisis”, the Prime Minister considered “there is a lot of learnings from what happened last time, and it’s important that as the business sector bounces back, as it will on the other side of this”.
The focus is on “jobs, cash flow and investment”.
According to the Prime Minister, “there’s no problem with the banking system”.
There’s also “no problem structurally with the stability of the economy or things of that nature”.
Instead, he outlined how “this is a health crisis which has had serious disruptive impacts on the travel movement of people and of goods around the world. And that obviously disrupts supply chains and has a suppressing impact on demand”.
In another interview, the Prime Minister said the government would be working together with everyone “to ensure we get people through this, and that includes economically”.
He reiterated that “it’s not a financial crisis”.
“It’s a health one, but it has very real economic impacts. And the government is pulling together a response to support, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, keeping them in business, keeping people employed, dealing with cash flow, supporting investment, because when the virus runs its course on the other side, there will be an uptick and we will bounce back,” he said.
“I’m planning to ensure that the Australian economy bounce[s] back better.”
Lisa Kaufman, CEO of LaSalle Investment Management Securities, during a global listed property briefing
Lisa Kaufman, CEO of LaSalle Investment Management Securities, stated the importance of property investment as black swans like the coronavirus hit the market.
When asked about the COVID-19 virus, Mr Kaufman said: “Be diversified, and real estate’s a good diversifier.”
She highlighted: “Goldman Sachs is moving their weighting down on the S&P 500 to underweight the S&P 500 for the rest of the year, and they are either or neutral or underweight every sector besides real estate.
“Real estate is the only sector to be overweight because of the defensive characteristics of particularly the real estate companies in the US, which are deriving revenues, primarily domestically, and the long-term nature of the lease and the durability of the cash flow.
“When things like the [coronavirus] happen, that comes back into vogue as yield and durable cash flow is valued in a way that sometimes it is not when things are growthier.”
Outlook for the global economy
Hopes of a “V shaped” recovery are falling as the impact of the COVID-19 virus is felt throughout the economy, suggested Janus Henderson Investors head of multi-asset team Paul O’Connor.
One thing that is clear is that the outlook for the global economy has darkened significantly in just a week.
“Disruptions to normal economic activity are spreading fast across many countries, and the constant flow of troubling new developments is undoubtedly going to weigh heavily on consumer and business confidence,” Mr O’Connor said.
While COVID-19 has received more than its fair share of the blame for weak economic numbers, there are underlying forces the virus is hiding, Franklin Templeton’s director of Australian fixed income, Andrew Canobi, said.
“The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has received more than its share of the blame for a range of market moves, and it is true that the fallout from this on growth will likely be severe and far exceed the overly optimistic utterances of central bankers and government alike made in recent weeks,” Mr Canobi said.
Last week’s ASX impact
In response to initial falls to stock values on the ASX last week, Sydney-based wealth management expert at Pitcher Partners Martin Fowler had said it was likely that global growth would continue to slow down in the short term as manufacturing activities in China are curbed, with the effect of spilling over to supply chains around the world.
From Mr Fowler’s perspective, investors should be alarmed “only when events which have a structural impact — one that detracts from the long-term nature of a company’s earnings — occur”.
“We see the event of COVID-19 as being predominantly short term in nature, and so markets should rebound over time,” he had flagged.
“But that does not mean there is nothing to worry about.”
According to the partner, there will be some highly leveraged stocks that are simply unable to withstand a significant short-term loss of revenue, and these could fail.
Therefore, “investing in quality companies and assets that can withstand a downturn — due to their strong balance sheets, solid cash-flow generation and competitive advantages — through these periods is key”.
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We Translate Complicated Financial Jargon Into Easy-To-Understand Information For Australians
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We Translate Complicated Financial Jargon Into Easy-To-Understand Information For Australians
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