The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) is expected to open lower on Tuesday according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what’s making headlines.
ASX 200 starts the week on the front foot
The ASX 200 weakened throughout the day but managed a fifth-straight positive session on Monday, closing 0.6% higher.
Once again, the majority of the buying pressure came from the commodities sector, specifically iron ore, after the price spiked another 5% over the weekend. According to reports, Chinese port stockpiles of ore are running low, suggesting Brazilian supply issues are having an impact, and ensuring strong demand as the year comes to a close.
Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) and BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) rallied 2.5% and 2.2%, respectively, sending them both close to all-time highs. For some context, the two companies alone represent around 8.2% of the ASX 200 index.
Link Administration Holdings Ltd (ASX: LNK) entered a trading halt after receiving a second, highly conditional bid from Nasdaq-listed SS&C Technologies. It had been a quiet few weeks for the company, so the offer came as a surprise and in an interesting move, the buyers have made it ‘subject to obtaining finance’. Given the nature of the assets, I don’t expect a bidding war to play out.
Metcash back to heyday, credit rating downgrades
In the least surprising move of 2020, Standard and Poor’s have downgraded Victoria State Government debt by two notches from AAA to ‘just’ AA, and New South Wales State Government debt down one notch to AA+. Whilst quite the headline grabber, it means little for either economy.
As highlighted last week, the RBA has been actively encouraging the states to borrow to fund fiscal stimulus in the hope of a faster employment recovery. The RBA has similarly included State Government bonds in its ‘quantitative easing’ and associated programs, ensuring borrowing rates will not be overly impacted.
Chinese economic strategy was on full display with a huge spike in its trade surplus in November, growing to US$75 billion as exports increased by 21.1% and imports by just 4.1%. The Chinese Government is focusing heavily on increasing self-sufficiency at the detriment of trade partners like Australia.
Back to home, Metcash Limited (ASX: MTS) is moving back towards 2008 levels after an unexpected, COVID-19 driven rebound. The company released its HY21 results, reporting a 12.2% increase in group revenue and a 43% in profit to $129.6 million with hardware a key contributor, jumping 20.6% in the first half. Whilst a solid result, I struggle to see this continuing as Victorian restrictions are eased.
US markets stutter, Brexit negotiations back in the spotlight
US markets finished weaker after a concerning surge in coronavirus cases has states from California to New York reinstating stay-at-home orders.
Whilst the S&P 500 and Dow Jones both fell 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively, the Nasdaq was able to deliver a small gain of 0.5% on the back of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) announcing the launch of its own processors for another range of devices sooner than expected in 2021; shares finished 1.3% higher on the news. Incumbent chip supplier Intel Corp (NASDAQ: INTC) felt the brunt of the announcement, falling 3.9% on a further hit to sales.
The US-China trade war has once again been replaced with Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK, which are expected to come to a head this week. In the absence of any solid agreement, the UK economy would be expected to suffer in the short-term.
Meanwhile, according to reports, the Japanese economy is set to receive a new US$706 billion stimulus with a significant portion attached to digitisation and the transition to a more sustainable economy.