The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) is set to open higher on Monday according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what’s making headlines.
ASX continues winning streak, A2 Milk & Mesoblast battered
The ASX 200 managed to overcome a 1.2% fall on Friday to cap off its seventh straight week of gains, adding 0.5%.
The IT sector continued to lead the way behind Afterpay Ltd (ASX: APT), finishing 5.9% higher for the week, whilst energy lost 2.4% as the US economy appeared to weaken.
The biggest news, however, was company-specific, with A2 Milk Company Ltd (ASX: A2M) falling over 23% on Friday after flagging growing difficulty with Chinese infant formula sales. Management guided to a significant cut in revenue to NZ$1.4 billion for the year, despite reiterating its expectations of NZ$1.8 billion in late September. There are a growing list of companies that became over-reliant on Chinese sales seemingly overnight, with recent events a wakeup call to investors on understanding where their exposures lie.
Mesoblast Limited (ASX: MSB) must be the most volatile stock of 2020, falling 36.1% on Friday after announcing that its trial into potential stem cell treatments for COVID-19 had been cancelled due to poor results. The day’s trade saw the company’s market value halve this week with analysts now concerned the US$50 million deal with Novartis may be in jeopardy, which will place incredible pressure on cash flow.
MSB share price chart
QBE shares tumble on FY20 update, Nike showing resilience
I’ve expressed my issue with investing in insurance companies regularly in this column, the combination of insuring against unpredictable events and relying on constantly charging your customers higher premiums simply doesn’t seem sustainable.
This view has been reiterated in 2020 after QBE Insurance Group Ltd (ASX: QBE) flagged a US$1.5 billion loss for the full year on the back of higher than expected claims, weaker crops and write-downs on its US business. On the positive side, investment income will hit US$140 million from a loss of US$90 million in the first half of this year due to the normalisation of bond markets since March. The QBE share price finished 12.5% lower on Friday.
US markets remain range bound, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 falling 0.1% and 0.4% on Friday, but managing gains of 3.1% and 1.2% respectively for another strong week.
Shoe and apparel maker Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) was the highlight, showing the resiliency of a strong brand, with third-quarter sales increasing 8.9% to US$11.2 billion behind a 24% increase in China and a 32% boost in online sales.
My key takeaways from the week
As per usual, here are my three investor takeaways from the week.
Big tech under pressure
This week saw what appears to be an uprising against global technology giants step up another gear. Whether it be the European Union calling for the likes of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) to be broken, court action initiated by multiple US states on concerns of anti-competitive behaviour, or the Chinese fining their own companies for similar issues, it is clear that regulation is coming in 2021.
But does it really matter? Such is the dominant position of companies like Google, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) that regulation will likely do little to stop their dominating ways, and seeming ability to pivot every few weeks.
Indexing is counterintuitive
Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) and Afterpay Ltd (ASX: APT) were the stories of the week, with both set to be included in their respective indices before Christmas – Tesla the S&P 500 and Afterpay the S&P/ASX 20.
The result has seen huge trading volume as index funds are forced to buy up these increasingly expensive companies with no regard to valuation of outlook. This was an issue reiterated by Bloomberg this week when they cited that stock-specific option investments, or bets on markets, now heavily outweigh index positions, suggesting professional traders are seeking more active management.
Australia on the brink
It can be difficult to break out of the negative perception, having lived through incredibly harsh lockdowns, but with last week’s NSW outbreak aside, Australia is truly a global leader.
It took a conversation with Tim Toohey of Yarra Capital to put some numbers around the potential recovery, the outlook for retail spending and why the AUD may continue to rally.