Are we facing the storm after the calm? Wall Street strategists are warning clients to expect rising volatility in sharemarkets. Photo: Michael NagleThe first debate of the US presidential campaign. A Group of 20 (G20) central bank interest rate announcement nearly every other trading day. And a key meeting among commodity nations around the world.
With a jam-packed calendar in September, no asset class is immune from potential event risk.
That’s not to mention that the month has typically been the worst one for stocks – the only one in which the median return for Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 has been negative going back to 1928, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Head of US Equity and Quantitative Strategy, Savita Subramanian.
Now, Wall Street strategists are warning of an end to the unusual calm that’s characterised markets in August, advising clients to expect one thing – volatility.
Of course, there’s no guarantee this volatility will ever materialise: strategists were also warning of a swoon in US stocks and uptick in market swings right before they proceeded to march to all-time highs.
The first major headline event to kick off the month’s festivities is the US non-farm payrolls report for August, slated to be released on Friday. A strong number would potentially set the scene for a rate hike when Federal Reserve officials next meet on September 21.
Investors have been repricing the odds of an increase in interest rates in the run-up to Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at the Jackson Hole Symposium and Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer’s comment that Yellen’s remarks were consistent with the possibility of two rate hikes in 2016, though the implied probability of a hike in September has eased in recent sessions.
This argument may be put to rest last Friday, as US job growth in August has come in below analysts’ expectations for five consecutive years. Central banks set the pace
Central bank decisions will drive global markets in September, given the potential for a rate hike from the Fed and the impact of large asset-purchasing schemes in the UK, Japan, and the euro area, for foreign exchange and credit markets, in particular.
The ECB Governing Council meets on 8 September and it faces a make-or-break bid to save its quantitative-easing strategy in the face of self-imposed limits on what it can buy. Analysts say the ECB might extend the horizon of its asset purchase program from March to September 2017.
The next Bank of England meeting is on September 15 – analysts, surveyed by Bloomberg, only see a 6.3 per cent probability of a rate cut at that meeting – and attention will focus on the implementation challenges of the monetary authority’s bond-purchase scheme after a challenging start for the program.
Similarly, fears are growing the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is exhausting its policy arsenal amid weak GDP, stubborn deflationary pressures, and a declining stock of government bonds available for purchase. The BOJ will announce the results of its comprehensive review of its monetary policy on September 21 – the same day as the Fed decision – amid rising expectations it will cut rates further into negative territory.
The G20 Summit will also take place on September 4-5, with China, the host, seeking to focus on global growth and financial-sector issues. There has been a rhetorical shift in recent months among advanced-economy policy makers in favour of looser fiscal policy, given the declining returns from monetary stimulus. Reviewing fiscal tools
Although analysts don’t foresee a coordinated plan at the G20 level for a large fiscal stimulus plan, markets will be keenly focused on the extent to which policy makers talk up the growth-boosting efficiency of fiscal policy, in general, a development that could reshape trading investments over financial assets, particularly high-grade bonds.
And while the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could be renamed the Organisation Who Cried Production Freeze, analysts at Barclays see cause to believe the threat to maintain output at current levels is more credible this time around, with officials from OPEC member countries scheduled to meet in Algeria from September 26 – 28.
“Non-OPEC countries that many analysts thought could not produce more (Russia for example), as well as some OPEC countries have continued to raise their production,” writes Kevin Norrish, managing director of commodities research. “So a freeze this time could help stem some potential further supply growth.”
September is also the start of the school year in global primary capital markets such as the US and Europe, meaning increased trading volumes as many investors return from their summer break. Analysts expect a busy pace of US investment-grade bond sales despite unusually strong supply in August. Analysts at Bank of America, for example, expect $US120 billion in new high-grade bonds. The ease in which credit markets absorb the supply will serve as an indicator of corporate dealmaking and share buy-back volumes in the second half of year, given the bond market’s outsize role in such corporate financing activities, say analysts.
In sum: Holiday’s over for the big global markets. Report back to your terminal immediately.
Hot Stuff: The axe-wielding Vaughn Hicks in the NSW Firefighters Calendar for 2017.
Yesterday we brought you the story about the Hunter having the sexiest firefighters in NSW.
This was because we had six firefighters in the NSW Firefighters Calendar for 2017.
The story included a photo of the buff beefcake Breece Whittaker, of Cameron Park.
We also put the story on the Herald’s website and Facebook page and it attracted quite a bit of attention.
There wereplenty of comments,including these:Stephanie Holmes:Might have to set our houses on fire;John Ralph:Doesn’t do a thing for me… lol; Shane Richardson:What a sexist post!!;Paula Turner:I do not agree with objectifying the male body but…wow!
We did notice that many women were understandably drawn to the photos of these strapping young firefighters.
Of course, political correctness being what it is these days, these types of stories and photos can sometimes ruffle feathers.
We noticed a few blokes suggested on Facebook that the story was sexist.
We’re not sure if they were being ironic.
But it did make us think about what the reaction would have been if, for example, female nurses put out a similar calendar.
But we’ll leave that particular hornet’s nest to someone else.
We shouldn’t forget that the Firefighters Calendar is for a good cause.
It raises money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Westmead Children’s Hospital Burns Unit, Mates4Mates and the RSPCA.
As Christine Smith said on Facebook: “Supports great causes – children and animals”.
Topics is glad to bring readers something a bit lighter.
One might say that muscular, good-looking firefighters are a welcome distraction from paedophile priests and ICAC scandals, if only for a fleeting moment or two.
So this is why we’ve decided to run another photo of a half-naked Newcastle-based firefighter, who also features in the calendar.
And if any type ofgender likes to have a gander at some eye candy once in a while, who are we to judge?
Sometimes you just have to give the people what they want.
Spoilt ForChoiceWe all face tough choices in life. Croudace Bay’s Eric Roach knows this. He’s facing a real curly one.
Four of his grandsons and son-in-law are playing in soccer grand finals on Saturday.
“Our dilemma is choosing which one to go and see,” Eric said.
What makes matters worseis they are playing at different grounds and similar times across the Hunter.
“They’re scattered all over the place,” he said.
The matches are being played at Broadmeadow, Tilligerry, Thornton and Nelson Bay.
Eric would have had another grandson in a grand final, but his team was knocked out last weekend in a penalty shootout.
Had his team won the match, he would have played one of Eric’s other grandsons in the grand final.
“That would have been difficult, knowing who to barrack for,” he said.
Eric reckons he should be able to catch two of the grand finals.
Topics can solve this one for you quite easily, Eric.
Just pick the ones you love the most and go and watch them play.
Swooping Season It’s magpie-swooping season. But what can be done to avoid being swooped?
Topics loves magpies. They are quite simply a magnificent Aussie bird. But around this time of year they tend to get a bit of a bad name because of swooping.
Terry Phick hadthis to offer on the Newcastle Herald’s Facebook page about how to deal with the problem: “If you get swooped by magpies, carry a little ziplock bag of some kind of meat cut up in small pieces. As you walk through magpie territory throw the meat out on the ground. The magpies will come and get it, after you have walked through. After three or four days of this you will never be swooped again.
Of course, you may have the magpies follow you around hoping for a free feed, but they’ll be singing at you in their beautiful voices.
Up close and personal with a magpie.
Joke of the DayThe shovel was a ground-breaking invention.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard at the Labor Party’s election launch in June. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Julia Gillard discusses girls’ education with Charlize Theron and Michelle Obama in September 2015. Photo: Supplied
Former prime minister Julia Gillard has been appointed visiting professor at London’s prestigious King’s College.
The former Labor leader and education minister will join King’s Policy Institute and the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, adding to her international work with the Centre for Universal Education at Washington DC’s Brookings Institution and as chair of the Global Partnership for Education.
“I am very honoured to be appointed by King’s College as a visiting professor in 2016,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.
“I look forward with great enthusiasm to substantive academic engagement with the students and faculty at King’s, and to contributing to meaningful discussion of issues of importance to society and the world.”
Serving as prime minister between 2010 and 2013, Ms Gillard was appointed chancellor of the Australian-based online education provider Dūcere in February 2015 and serves as an honorary professor at the University of Adelaide and patron of Perth’s John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.
King’s College president and principal Professor Ed Byrne said he was delighted by Ms Gillard’s appointment.
“On a more personal note it’s a pleasure to see a fellow British-born Australian – Julia was born in Wales – join us here at this world leading university,” Professor Byrne said in a statement.
“Julia brings the most incredible wealth of experience, as well as important insights of the education systems both here and in Australia.
“She is a great champion for equal opportunity and excellent education, an ethos we share here at King’s.”
Among her other educational work, Ms Gillard serves as a director of mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue, and on the Board of Governors of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia.
She is patron of Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, which works for the advancement of female education in Africa.
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KEEP IT RURAL: Berry Park turf farmer Jeff Fetterplace on his Berry Park farm. PICTURE: Jonathan Carroll.
A small rural lobby group has called on the State Government to intervene in the development application process for aseniors’ living development at Berry Park that it believes should have gone before the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
The Primary Agricultural Land Survival Group, which comprisesBerry Park residents,is protesting the development proposed by Hunter businessman Hilton Grugeon.
The group is trying to determine if Mr Grugeon’s actions to have the development approved in two stages by Maitland City Council (each stage just under the JRPP $20 million cap)is legal.
Mr Grugeon told Fairfax Media his development is above board, legal and something that should be determined at a local level.
He saidhe did lodge his initial application with the JRPP but withdrewit because the panel was already scrutinising another proposal he had before it.
“We played by the rules and foreshadowed there would be further DAs,” Mr Grugeon said.
“Councilmakes its decisions not just on what’s best for20 or 30 objectors but on what’sbest for the 7000 people in Morpeth and the 80,000 people who live in Maitland. It needs to be kept in balance.”
Mr Grugeon’s originalapplication, lodged two yearsago,comprised 178 homes. This resulted in strong community backlash. The development was scaled back to 74 homes and approved by councilin May.
This weekcouncil called for public comment on an application for an additional 88 lots aspart of the same development.
“I understand these residentshave a point of view, which I respect, but at the end of the day the decision is made on what’s best for the city,” Mr Grugeon said.
A spokesperson for the Berry Park group said 74 homes (stage one) approved by council in May should have gone before the JRPPbecause of the scale and cost of the development.
They have called on the Stateto intervene until it is determined whether the development application process has been carried out correctly.
“Most of us own businesses and we support development but this is in the wrong location,” the spokesperson said. “Our key concerns arewater run-off, contamination and the over-development of the site.This is an urban plan for rural land which we are trying to retain in Berry Park and this goes against every policy the council has got.”
Resident Linda Fenton, whose husband Jeff Fetterplace operates a turffarm,is waiting for a reply from the Environmental Defender’s Office to see what options are available to residents who wish to fight the plan.
“Both stages have come in under the $20million cap,” Ms Fenton said.“This is actually one proposaland the developer has put it into two.We’re disappointed but not surprised by the application which isa conflict of land use.” Ms Fenton and the group will lodge submissions onthe latest DA.
Consumers don’t know if slow speeds are due to their equipment, old infrastructure, or their telco being stingy with capacity. Photo: Nic Walker Slow internet speeds may be due to modems, not infrastructure, telcos often claim. Photo: AVM GmbH
The telco industry is fighting attempts by the competition watchdog to independently monitor broadband data speeds, claiming the program will be costly, ineffective, and drive up prices. Instead it wants to write its own guidelines and is launching a education package on what households should do to improve speeds.
However, consumer groups argue Australians have a right to know what kind of data speeds each provider actually delivers, particularly on the national broadband network.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] wants $6 million in next year’s budget to roll out a monitoring scheme that collects daily data samples of every internet provider on different technologies. Chairman Rod Sims has previously called it “a really important consumer issue that we are currently getting a number of complaints about”.
At the moment consumers on standard copper-based ADSL connections cannot choose their speed and have to rely on best-endeavours by their telco. But on the NBN consumers can pay more for faster speeds, but only receive those speeds if telcos buy enough capacity. An ACCC pilot program found some telcos were not purchasing enough capacity and speeds dropped dramatically during busy periods.
Chief executive of industry peak body group Communications Alliance, John Stanton, said the ACCC is “putting forward a flawed proposal that cannot produce rigorous, publishable, comparative information”.
There were many factors outside a telco’s control for companies to predict speeds, he said, such as the number of customers using the network, the number of people in a household and whether they use a cable or WiFi connection, distance from the exchange, and capacity on undersea cables.
Chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network [ACCAN], Teresa Corbin, said Australians were sick of being sold internet services that did not meet their expectations.
“The thing is that people are being sold products by being told ‘this is going to be better than any thing you have ever had before’,” she said.
But consumers often found speeds did not improve by changing providers. Only telcos know when they – not the consumers – are responsible for slow speeds, Ms Corbin added.
“We would prefer that the ACCC do [the monitoring] because it would be linked to their compliance and enforcement approach,” she added.
The CommsAlliance submission said describing “attainable” internet speeds was as difficult as predicting car travel times on a busy road. It also argued consumers were more concerned with price and download limits than speed, and that prices would increase if telcos had to deliver the speeds they advertised.
CommsAlliance, which represents companies like Telstra, Optus, AAPT, and Vocus, also blamed video streaming services like Netflix for an increase in complaints about data speeds to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
“…An ADSL service that the user has long perceived to be performing satisfactorily may become perceived to suffer from slow speeds because of nothing other than the greater demands being placed on it by the consumer – prompting a complaint to the TIO”.
Chief executive of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, said sign up rates on the NBN may be slow because people have heard speeds were slower than ADSL. The monitoring scheme would help work out if the slower speeds were due to the customer’s equipment, NBN Co’s network, or the telco’s stinginess with capacity.
He supports an independent scheme that would monitor speeds on fibre-to-the-node connections.
A program similar to what the ACCC proposes is currently being rolled out in Canada, with the communications regulator set to publish company-specific results later this year. A preliminary report found all the telcos met or exceeded their advertised speeds.