Economics & Markets

Trump, trade tensions and BoJo: what political sagas mean for global markets

By Diana Mousina
Economist - Investment Strategy & Dynamic Markets Sydney Australia

Between impeachment talks in the US, the UK prime minister seemingly giving unlawful advice to the Queen and protesters in Hong Kong continuing to rally in the streets – you could be forgiven for assuming global economic markets are a mess. However, these political dramas don’t necessarily translate into market volatility.

The United States: President Trump in hot water

One of the latest political developments in the US is an impeachment inquiry opening into President Donald Trump, announced by speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi late last week.

Ms Pelosi set the scope of the inquiry to focus on the unfolding revelations about President Trump’s dealings with the Ukraine, and the accusation that he withheld aid to leverage for information about his political rival, Joe Biden.

This comes in the midst of ongoing trade tension relations between the US and China, which currently show no signs of a resolution.

The impeachment inquiry does cause a bit of uncertainty for markets and for business, particularly in the US. However, we at AMP Capital ultimately believe that share markets will look through this noise.

It’s worth noting that it can take a while for impeachment proceedings to get anywhere, even though the first and major step has now occurred. Further, the next step is that the US Senate needs to agree to an impeachment, which as it stands, looks unlikely. The Republican party have a majority in the Senate, and it’s unlikely they would want to impeach President Trump within close proximity of an election.

The United Kingdom: BoJo and Brexit

Although the happenings of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are dominating headlines at the moment, it’s the ongoing Brexit saga which is having the most impact on markets.

The Brexit deadline of October 31 is fast approaching, and there is still no sign of an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom being reached.

At this stage, at AMP Capital we think the most likely outcome is that Brexit will be delayed again. In this sense, it’s positive that we’re not going to see a no-deal Brexit, because this would be disastrous for the UK. It would mean short-term disruption to all the UK’s trade channels, and a high chance of a near-term recession.

In saying all that, we note a previous position that the Brexit saga is not disastrous for the global economy. Rather, the UK is wearing the brunt of the impact.

China: Trade tensions and taking to the streets

Tensions in Hong Kong are ongoing, with protesters making international headlines and continuing to clash with local policy. In terms of market impact, so far, this seems to be contained to Hong Kong, and is not being felt by global markets.

As far as China goes, the trade tensions with the US continue to impact global markets.

Lately, there’s been good news and bad news on the long-standing dispute. The good news is that tensions haven’t gotten any worse, which is an improvement on recent updates. What we don’t want to see is a re-escalation of trade tensions, and more trade tariffs to be imposed on top of what is already in place. That would have a negative impact on share markets.

At the moment, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to how this will end, and how much longer the dispute can extend. We think that ultimately President Trump does want to form some sort of deal with China before the election in 2020, but that may take some months. At AMP Capital, we aren’t anticipating a quick resolution on this.

More broadly, China’s economic data has been ok recently. There have been some signs that the manufacturing sector in China is stabilising, albeit at a low level, because of the negatives flow-on effects from the trade war with the US.

Further, Chinese policy makers are putting in place a lot of different forms of stimulus into the economy, and we think that is finally showing up in the data. That should be a positive for Chinese growth in the near term, but any further escalation in trade would de-rail that recovery.

Finally, what about Australia?

As is always the case, the housing market continues to dominate the hearts and minds of Australians investors and market watchers. Speculation of boom-time conditions returning have started to surface, but the data paints a slightly different picture.

According to figures released this week from CoreLogic, capital city dwelling prices rose 1.1 per cent in September. Although this seems minor, it is a turnaround compared to a 10.2 per cent decline over a 21-month period, which is worse than what was seen during the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8.

Sydney and Melbourne led the charge, dwelling prices both rose a strong 1.7 per cent in September, which is their fourth gain in a row.

Prices also rose in Brisbane, but only a fraction, by 0.1 per cent. Prices in Canberra rose 1 per cent, and there was no movement in Adelaide. For all remaining capital cities – Perth, Darwin and Hobart – prices fell. Perth prices are now down 21.3 per cent from their 2014 high and Darwin prices are down 30.8 per cent from their 2014 high.

Green shoots

No doubt, there is a bounce in home buyer demand in Australia. The impact of the RBA cutting the cash rate for a third time this year, the re-election of a conservative government in May and the banking regulator easing its guidance for lenders are all contributing to this.

Auction clearance rates also give an indication of what’s to come for the housing market in Australia over the next year. As can be seen in the below charts, the rebound in auction clearance rates points to a continuing rebound in home prices in the key markets of Sydney and Melbourne. Based on past relationships and patterns, the current level of clearances points to annual house price growth rising to around 10 to 15 per cent over the next 9 to 12 months.

Source: Domain, CoreLogic, AMP Capital
Source: Domain, CoreLogic, AMP Capital
Source: Domain, CoreLogic, AMP Capital
Source: Domain, CoreLogic, AMP Capital

Boom time conditions not on the horizon

Although the bottom of the property cycle is upon us, our base case at AMP Capital remains that house price gains will be far more constrained than what Australia has seen in most recent boom time conditions, particularly at its peak in 2016.

Key factors to consider here are that household debt to income ratios are much higher, bank lending standards are much tighter than they have been during previous housing recovery cycles. In addition, the supply of units has surged, with more in the pipeline. For cities like Sydney, this has pushed up the rental vacancy rate to above normal levels. Unemployment is also likely to drift up, as overall economic growth remains weak.

For the immediate term, the Spring selling season in October is worth watching. If auction clearance rates and volume of listings continue to trend upwards, this will be a positive indication of continued recovery.  

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Diana Mousina, Senior Economist
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Important notes

While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

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