Keeping your financial partnership on track

March 13th, 2017

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

Groucho Marx might have been joking when he said this, but there’s no getting around it: money is a prime source of tension in marriages and domestic partnerships right around Australia. A survey by Relationships Australia found that 70% of couples are affected by disagreements about money. 84% of respondents said money troubles would be more likely to push people apart than bring them together. Cooperating on financial matters is well worth it for most couples. It’s not just your bank balance which will benefit from working together. Working through money issues with your partner can help develop communication skills, improve bonding through a sense of teamwork, and set up shared values to pass on to children.

It’s easy to feel as though you’re drifting apart from your partner when it comes to money management. After all, many of us face the same recurring issues and squabbles: furtive spending, disagreements on priorities, and even hidden accounts. But the good news is that there are simple measures you can take to bring yourselves back on track.

Be proactive, not reactive

When tough times strike, it’s easy to lash out and make big decisions based on emotion. Accidents, illnesses and deaths in the family can set you up to make decisions more based on grief, anger or fear than cold hard facts. When you are faced with grave circumstances, it’s a good idea to give yourself a bit of breathing space before you make any binding choices.

Stick to your budget

If your savings are tied together, then your spending should be too. Not agreeing on a household budget is a recipe for disaster. Although it might take some time to agree on everything, having a written budget is essential. To avoid either partner feeling like their freedom is impinged upon, make sure to set aside a small amount each for discretionary spending.

Be conscious of your money personality

Find you’re getting annoyed at your partner’s perceived stinginess or lack of discipline? First, it’s time to step back and acknowledge that you may be a little biased, because we all have our own money management ‘personality’. Being aware of your differences in attitude is the first step towards compromising and changing where necessary.

Keep your Will up to date

This one is not just about the two of you – it’s about your dependants and loved ones. If one of you were to pass away, would everyone be clear on your wishes as to what happens with your estate? It’s worth spending an hour or two with a solicitor to work through your options, and ensure your wishes are enforceable.

Put it in both names

Whether it’s a credit card for bills, a mortgage, or an asset in your investment portfolio, make sure it’s in both names. This way, benefits and responsibilities are split straight down the middle. Neither partner gets to shirk responsibility, overrule the other, or claim all benefits/income in the case of a dispute. It’s an ideal way to generate conversation, communication and cooperation.

Share the fruits of your labour

Being frugal and budgeting well is serious work, so it makes sense to share the rewards of that work with your partner – otherwise, one of you may feel hard done by. When it comes to discretionary spending or saving for big ticket items, think of things you can share: holidays, new vehicles, entertainment etc.

Ready to implement some of these tips in your financial plan? Make an appointment with us to discuss your shared goals and challenges today.

i Relationships Australia, August 2015: Impact of financial problems on relationships

General Advice Warning This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be specific advice on any particular matter. Michael J Berinson Pty Ltd strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information contained herein but should seek appropriate professional advice based upon their own personal circumstances. Although we consider the sources for this material reliable, no warranty is given and no liability is accepted for any statement or opinion or for any error or omission.

Getting By If Your Income Stops

January 9th, 2017

getting-by-if-your-income-stops

Ask yourself this. Would you still be able to pay for your everyday living expenses if you weren’t able to work? A serious injury or illness could put you out of work for months. If you don’t have any other way of earning an income, this could put you and your family under a lot of financial stress.

Your salary may stop but the bills won’t

Without a salary, you may not be able to stay on top of everyday living expenses like mortgage or rental payments, groceries, electricity and petrol.

Not having enough money to pay your bills places an enormous amount of stress on you and your family. Without any other way of earning an income, you may need to fall back on government benefits through Centrelink. While this may provide just enough to get you by, your financial situation will be very strained. And financial pressures are the last thing you need, when you’re trying to recover from an injury or illness.

Protect your income

You can avoid the risk of not having enough money to live on, by having income insurance, also known as income protection. This insurance, replaces your income for a certain period, if you can’t work due to temporary disability or illness.

You may be able to receive up to 75% of your taxable income, plus the 9% superannuation guarantee. This benefit will continue to be paid, until your benefit period expires, or you are able to return to work.

Tax benefits

Income protection insurance premiums are usually 100% tax deductible. This means that if your marginal tax rate is 30%, your overall income will reduce by $31.50, for every $100 that you pay in premium.

For peace of mind, why not book a time to come in and have an obligation free discussion with Michael. This will cost you nothing to start with, as your first meeting with us is absolutely free. 

Centrelink is changing… are you prepared?

January 9th, 2017

centrelink-is-changing

From the 1st of January 2017, more than 300,000 older Australians will be affected by changes to Centrelink’s Age Pension Assets Test. It’s a good idea to be aware of the upcoming changes, because if you will be affected, there are options available to you to reduce your assessable assets for the Assets Test to receive more of the pension. Talk to your Financial Adviser today about protecting your retirement income.

A recap of the changes

From January 2017, the limit to qualify for a full pension under the Assets Test with be raised by the government to $375,000 for couples and $250,000 for single people[1]. That’s a difference of +$83,500 for couples and +$44,500 for singles. Which is great news!

Currently, for a part pension, the pension rate payable reduces by $1.50 per fortnight for every $1,000 of assets you own above the Assets Test limit. For example, if you own $10,000 worth of assets over the Assets Test limit, your pension will reduce by $15 per fortnight ($7.50 per fortnight each for couples). You may know this as the ‘taper rate’.

From January 2017, the taper rate is going to increase to $3.00 for every $1,000 of assets you own over the Assets Test threshold. So, if you own $10,000 worth of assets over the Assets Test limit, your pension will reduce by $30 per fortnight.

It may not seem like much on a fortnightly basis, however, over a year this equates to $780 which could be used to fund a nice weekend away, your budget for family Christmas presents, or even the regular service on your car.

In addition, the Assets Test limit to receive a part pension (and the pensioner concession card) will decrease. For pensioners who own their own home, the Assets Test limit for a part pension will decrease to $823,000 for couples and $547,000 for singles. If your assets exceed these thresholds, you will no longer qualify for the part pension you have received in the past.

You still have options to improve your pension benefit

There are a number of strategies you can implement that may help you maximise your pension benefit. These include:

Contributing to your spouse’s superannuation if they are under Age Pension Age

When funds are in superannuation (in the accumulation stage), they do not count for the Assets Test, whilst below Age Pension age.

Improving your principal home

Your home is not assessed under the Assets Test, so now might be an ideal time to do the home improvements you had planned such as remodelling your kitchen, or building that patio you’ve been dreaming of.

Gifting early

When receiving a pension, each financial year, you are able to gift up to $10,000, with a maximum of $30,000 over five years, without impacting your Age Pension entitlements. Also, if you are more than 5 years prior to reaching Age Pension age, you can gift larger amounts above these limits.

Investing in a lifetime annuity

Investing in a lifetime annuity can help provide a regular income throughout your lifetime. Your Financial Adviser can help you choose the right option for you and your situation.

Purchasing Funeral Bonds

With a Funeral Bond, you can invest up to $12,250 to cover funeral costs. Investment earnings are tax free, and upon your death, the investment is able to be redeemed for cash. Where the funeral expenses are less than the balance of the investment, the remaining funds are then paid to your estate.

As the changes did not come into effect until January 2017, you should have taken action by now. However, don’t sit back and relax, as many of the options available are time dependent, so it’s important to speak with your Financial Adviser about the options available, sooner rather than later.

Speak call us today about how you might be affected by these changes and if so, how we can help you minimise the impact on your Age Pension benefits.

[1] Homeowners

Protecting Your Family Through Your Super

January 9th, 2017

protecting-your-family-through-your-super_1

If you are looking for a way to protect your family without breaking the budget, life insurance through super could be a good place to start.

When you’re already inundated with bills and expenses, taking out life insurance might seem like an unnecessary luxury. But there is a way you may be able to give your family vital protection, without dipping into the household budget, and that’s by taking advantage of insurance through superannuation.

If you’re an employee, you probably have some automatic death and total and permanent disability (TPD) cover in your superannuation already.

The benefit of this arrangement, is that it allows you to use your pre-tax income (e.g. your employer’s Superannuation Guarantee contributions) to pay your premiums. It’s also easy, as your insurance premiums can just be deducted from your super, rather than having to come out of your household budget.

The problem with having this automatic protection is that it can lull people into a false sense of security. The insurance that is provided by employers, is generally a minimum level of cover based on your age and/or income. It doesn’t take into account things like your debts levels and dependents – which are two of the main reasons this cover is required.

Do you need to increase your level of cover?

If you have a mortgage and/or dependent children, you may need to increase your level of death and TPD cover in super to clear your debts ,and provide an adequate level of ongoing income for your family.

There are also types of insurance that generally are not available in super, or may not be provided automatically, so relying solely on cover inside super could mean you’re missing out on the important protection those policies provide.

Trauma insurance is one type of cover not generally available inside super. It is designed to pay you a benefit, if you are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer – with the money often used to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, and possibly help a spouse take time off work to provide care.

Income protection is another common example. This is a type of policy that typically replaces up to 75% of your income if you can’t work due to sickness or injury. And while some employers offer income protection (or ‘group salary continuance’ insurance) to their employees in super, it often isn’t provided automatically.

Know where you stand

With something as important as your family’s lifestyle at stake, you need to be aware of exactly what you are covered for – taking into account any life insurance policies you already hold inside or outside super.

Most importantly, you need to think about how your insurance would be used if you became seriously ill, or were unable to provide for your family. That includes ensuring your benefit can be passed on to your family in the most tax-effective way.

To find out if you could be using your super to protect your family more cost-effectively, speak to us. It’s easy, as your first meeting with Michael is absolutely free.

Make your super last

November 18th, 2016

3d-person-getting-it-right

Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world, which means you can look forward to a long and healthy retirement. Here’s how to make sure your super lasts.

Did you know that Australia is now one of just four countries in the world where both men and women can expect to live into their eighties?¹ While that’s fantastic news, it also makes saving for retirement more important than ever.

Almost half of Australians over age 40 are worried about outliving their retirement savings, while many are confused about the best way to achieve the retirement lifestyle they dream of.² But by getting good advice and planning ahead now, you can take control and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your future may be secure.

Work out how much you need

The first step is to figure out how much income you want to receive each year in retirement, and how much you may need to save in order to get there.

Plan for different stages of retirement

It’s also important to think about how your spending patterns may change during your retirement, to plan ahead accordingly.

For example, in the early stages when you’re at your most active, you’re likely to need more funds for travel, sports and recreation. Then, as you enter a more relaxed phase of retirement, you’ll need to be ready for possible health issues, so you can afford the care you need as medical treatments are becoming more sophisticated and more expensive every year.

When you crunch the numbers, you may find you’re facing a super gap. An effective way to grow your super savings while potentially paying less tax may be via salary sacrifice.

You may also want to keep your options open for the later years when you may need more intensive health support, including specialised accommodation.

Also don’t forget to factor in lump sum spending on big ticket items, such as home renovations or a new car. Because, as retirements grow longer, our cars and appliances are increasingly likely to fade away before we do.

Boost your super

When you crunch the numbers, you may find you’re facing a super gap. An effective way to grow your super savings while potentially paying less tax may be via salary sacrifice.

Even a small contribution can make a big difference over time, as you earn returns on your contributions. When you invest pre-tax income through salary sacrifice, you may also benefit from the 15% concessional tax rate on super contributions, putting you even further ahead.

Currently you can contribute $30,000 a year up to the age of 50 in concessionally taxed super contributions (which include employer super guarantee contributions), or $35,000 if you’re aged 50 or over. Note – changes to super come into effect in 2017.

Finally, if there is a large sum you will like to contribute to super, you will need advice as there have been dramatic changes to how contributions are made.

Review your investment option

Our super is one of our most valuable assets, so it’s not surprising many of us seek to protect it by investing in a low risk option. But it’s also important to remember that trying too hard to avoid risk today could expose you to a greater risk — running out of money tomorrow, when your savings don’t produce the returns you need for a comfortable retirement. So it’s important to choose the right investment option for your goals and investment time-frame.

That’s where personalised advice from a professional adviser can make a difference. Your adviser can help you calculate how much super you’ll need, then find the best strategy to reach your goal. Talk to your adviser today, call our office to book a meeting.

¹Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aussie men now expected to live past 80, 2014.
² Investment Trends, Retirement Income Report, December 2013.
Article by Colonial First State

Give yourself more flexibility in the lead up to retirement

November 10th, 2016

take-control-your-retirement

Nowadays, we’re living for years longer than ever before. 60 is no longer old age! So it makes sense that you want the flexibility to approach retirement in a way that suits you. A transition to retirement strategy enables you to access part of your super while you are still working and has a number of benefits.

Boost your super and supplement your income

There are two main benefits of a transition to retirement strategy:

Maximising your super – You can continue to work while drawing an income from an account-based pension. By doing this you can salary sacrifice as much of your pre-tax salary to super as possible while receiving an income from your pension. This allows you to increase your retirement savings without reducing your income. This can also be extremely tax-effective because pension payments are generally taxed at a lower rate than your salary.

Supplementing your income – If you want to move into part-time work before you retire but don’t want your income to drop you can use your pension to supplement your salary.

Ease yourself into retirement

You can choose different transition to retirement strategies depending on what is most important to you. If you believe you have enough retirement savings you could still benefit from a transition to retirement strategy. For example, if you wanted to renovate your home before retirement you could keep working full-time and use the extra income from your transition to retirement pension to pay for the work. That way you get your home improvements done before retirement without taking on any debt.

Are you eligible?

You can take advantage of a transition to retirement strategy if you meet the following conditions:

You are aged between 56 and 65 years of age
You are still working
You transfer some, or all, of your super account to a transition to retirement pension

Important considerations for high income earners

It you earn a high income it’s important to consider the concessional contributions cap before deciding to salary sacrifice as part of a transition to retirement strategy. If you exceed the concessional contributions cap, which is currently $35,000 for the 2015-2016 financial year, you may be taxed an extra 31.5% tax on any contributions above the cap.

Set it up right from the start

Transition to retirement strategies can provide significant tax savings and benefits, but they can be complicated. For this reason we strongly recommend that you talk to us in the lead up to retirement, so that the strategy you put in place is right for your personal situation. Come in and have a free, no obligation initial chat, and then take it from there. 

Protecting Your Family Through Your Super

November 2nd, 2016

shutterstock_96964106

When you’re already inundated with bills and expenses, taking out life insurance might seem like an unnecessary luxury. But there is a way you may be able to give your family vital protection without dipping into the household budget, and that’s by taking advantage of insurance through superannuation.

If you’re an employee, you probably have some automatic death and total and permanent disability (TPD) cover in your superannuation already.

The benefit of this arrangement is that it allows you to use your pre-tax income (e.g. your employer’s Superannuation Guarantee contributions) to pay your premiums. It’s also easy, as your insurance premiums can just be deducted from your super, rather than having to come out of your household budget.

The problem with having this automatic protection is that it can lull people into a false sense of security. The insurance that is provided by employers is generally a minimum level of cover based on your age and/or income. It doesn’t take into account things like your debts levels and dependents – which are two of the main reasons this cover is required.

Do you need to increase your level of cover?

If you have a mortgage and/or dependent children, you may need to increase your level of death and TPD cover in super to clear your debts and provide an adequate level of ongoing income for your family.

There are also types of insurance that generally are not available in super, or may not be provided automatically, so relying solely on cover inside super could mean you’re missing out on the important protection those policies provide.

Trauma insurance is one type of cover not generally available inside super. It is designed to pay you a benefit if you are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer – with the money often used to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses and possibly help a spouse take time off work to provide care.

Income protection is another common example. This is a type of policy that typically replaces up to 75% of your income if you can’t work due to sickness or injury. And while some employers offer income protection (or ‘group salary continuance’ insurance) to their employees in super, it often isn’t provided automatically.

Know where you stand

With something as important as your family’s lifestyle at stake, you need to be aware of exactly what you are covered for – taking into account any life insurance policies you already hold inside or outside super.

Most importantly, you need to think about how your insurance would be used if you became seriously ill or were unable to provide for your family. That includes ensuring your benefit can be passed on to your family in the most tax-effective way.

To find out if you could be using your super to protect your family more cost-effectively, speak to us. We would love to have the opportunity to assist more people to achieve their financial goals, have peace of mind and still maintain the Lifestyle they enjoy along the way. Come in and have a cup of coffee with Michael and see how he can best assist you – no cost at all for your initial meeting. 

Being prepared for surprises – good and bad – is a smart financial strategy

November 2nd, 2016

worried-man-with-hands-on-head

While none of us can predict the future, we can do a lot to lessen the shock that can arise from unexpected events and emergencies at any time of life. For retirees relying on investments for day-to-day living, having a contingency plan means you’ll be prepared for any surprises that could derail your financial security and lifestyle goals.

Your financial plan has you on the right foot, but it can be a good idea to make sure you have a sufficient safety net to protect your retirement income, and other long-term investments, from one-off or cascading personal life events that can crop up at any time, which especially affect people at or after retirement. Examples include sudden illness, an accident or disability, the death of a spouse, or those same events affecting close family members such as children, siblings or aging parents. It’s also not unusual for changes to superannuation benefits or pensions to affect retiree expenses.

Other surprise expenditures that can interrupt your income stream might be emergency repairs to your home and investment properties due to everyday wear and tear or a severe weather event; maintaining the family car; or if a beloved pet racks up a large bill from the veterinarian. Having a savings safety net can also come in handy should you need to help out a relative, such as a son or daughter losing a job, or suffering unexpected health or life costs.

Your financial plan may already include a savings safety net – if so, that’s great news. However if you set your plan in place some time ago, you may want to consider talking to your financial planner to ensure that you have enough flexibility in case of a rainy day. Insurance provides another form of safety net, helping you to deal with unexpected losses.

From general insurance covering fire, flood and theft of property and vehicles to life insurance that provides important financial support to a family, many of us take a set and forget approach to our policies. But take the time to review your protection, checking that values are still up to date, perhaps organising for new quotes on policies, and making sure that you are covered for the events of concern to you.

Mind the gap

Preparing for events that may never happen can be overwhelming, but it’s really a matter of managing the gap between enough funds to cover your retirement goals, and a safety net of savings to protect those funds. That’s the ideal scenario, but many retirees and those approaching retirement are carrying more debt than ever before. Average mortgages and other property loans held by people approaching age 65 have more than doubled since 2002, and credit card debt is up 70 per cent, according to a report by Kellyresearch. 1

The report also shows that “increases in wealth through rising asset values, easy credit, and higher earnings” have led to a higher standard of living for working households.2 But a higher standard of living based on debt is unsustainable. That’s why retirees need to be careful about debt liability and having a focus on building up superannuation to the detriment of other forms of saving, because both approaches lock up funds that may need to be accessed quickly. That’s where contingency planning comes in.

1. Household savings and retirement: Where has all my super gone? A report on superannuation and retirement for CPA Australia by KELLYresearch, October 2012.
2. Ibid.

SOURCE: Colonial First State Investments Limited

 

Economic Update – November 2016

November 2nd, 2016

dollars-with-stethoscope-on-it

Within this month’s update, we share with you a snapshot of economic occurrences both nationally and from around the globe.

Global economic growth story strengthens!

– US, UK and EU economic growth surprise on the upside

– China growth strengthens

– Australian inflation strengthens

We hope you find this month’s Economic Update as informative as always. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss any aspect of this report, please contact our office.

The Big Picture

Last month we reported that Australian economic growth surprised with a more than solid +3.3% for the year. This month we can add that United Kingdom (UK) growth came in above expectations at +2.3% for the year – in spite of prior concerns about the negative impact of Brexit. United States (US) growth rounded off the month with a much better than expected +2.9% while the European Union (EU) delivered a more modest, but most welcome surprise on the upside, +1.6%.
China came in again at +6.7% growth but the partial indicators of Retail Sales and Industrial Output backed-up the story. Other indicators were even stronger.

What is really important is that, at last, interlinked growth is emerging as export markets open for each other. Sadly growth in Japan is still struggling but it has been struggling for more than two decades. Japan’s main problem is a falling population. Unlike many other countries, including Australia, net migration inflows help stimulate growth.

While one should never get too excited about one good month’s data, it is the co-ordinated growth that is starting the buzz. As a result, bond yields are starting to rise and that may put a bit of a dampener on our high-yield equities.

At home, inflation also surprised. It came in at +0.7% for the quarter or +1.3% for the year. But that, on its own, is insufficient to change the Reserve Bank’s (RBA) view on what to do with interest rates.

The new inflation data means that the RBA does not have to cut rates for that reason – nor does it have to hike to control inflation. It was a ‘Goldilocks’ number.

But our employment data continues to worry us. Jobs are increasing in a trend sense – and the unemployment rate is falling. But what continues to happen is a substitution of part time work for full time. Given that the average working week for full-time workers is 39 hours and only 17 hours for a part-timer, the individuals concerned are doing it tougher – but the collective, Australia is doing better!

The US is going to provide even more of a lead than normal in the coming months. The Trump v Clinton election is not as simple as previous elections. The FBI just weighed in by reopening the emails case on Clinton. Trump continues to take flak from all sides. Rightly or wrongly on each side, such a situation spells market volatility in the short run.
In the medium to longer term, even US presidents don’t have that much power. They need the backing of Congress.

The US Fed is possibly going to hike rates by 0.25% in December. Last December, when they hiked for the first time in nearly a decade, they predicted four rate hikes for 2016 but so far there have been none. While many economists, and some Fed members, are calling for the Fed to get the process moving soon the Chair, Janet Yellen, has left the door open for more of a wait and see approach. She has stated that she wouldn’t mind if the US economy ran a little too hot for a while.

So long run economic and market prospects are building strength and the so-called ‘earnings recession’ for listed companies on Wall Street seems to have already turned the corner. Once they have a new US President sworn in, we could have a nice settled, but growing, market. Until then, we might find the road a little bumpy.

Asset Classes

Australian Equities

The ASX 200 looked like having its worst month since January but a great last day made it a less severe 2.2% for October! Interestingly, the index started to ignore overseas leads towards the end of October. Some of this behaviour is probably due to global bond yields rising on signs of economic strength – and a possible hike in US rates by the Fed.

It is so important – particularly in the case of Australia – to note that sectors have been performing very differently at the moment. The so-called high-yield sectors [Financials, Property, Telcos and Utilities] are well down on the year to date by 2.9% – even after dividends are taken into account. But the other seven sectors have collectively experienced strong double digit growth – at +12.5%.

Foreign Equities

Wall Street’s S&P 500 fell a little less than the ASX 200 at 1.9% for the month. On the other hand, the London FTSE posted a gain of +0.9% and the Frankfurt DAX +1.5%. But it was left to Asia for some stellar results with the Tokyo’s Nikkei up +5.9% and the Shanghai Composite gained +3.2%.

Bonds and Interest Rates

The US Fed is the big game in town until we glide into 2017. We think there will be at most three 0.25% increases in the US before 2018. That is a very shallow trajectory indeed. The Fed will not do anything to interfere with the nascent growth story.

The RBA needs to, and probably will, give us one or two cuts down to 1% in the next couple of quarters or so. The government is not getting any fiscal stimulus programmes in place so the RBA is our only hope in the short term.

Our economic situation is far from dire but we do not have an atmosphere of wanting to invest in long-term, full-time jobs’ projects. Our official interest rate is so far above all of the major Western competitors (USA, Europe, Japan, etc.) and there is no reason to keep it there.

Other Assets

Commodity prices continue to stabilise and some big ‘houses’ are even predicting continued price rises in oil. What is important for us is that the dire predictions some analysts and commentators were peddling at the start of the year have vanished.

Commodity prices are unlikely to rise far enough to stunt growth. The important thing is that they are stable and viable for continued investment in the resources sector.

Regional Analysis

Australia

We have lost 54,000 full-time jobs in 2016 to date. With official estimates of population growth at +1.4% there are not enough full-time jobs to go around. As it happens, 47,000 of those 54,000 job losses are for men and only 7,000 job losses for women.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out the social impact of replacing full-time with part-time jobs. Data is not readily at hand to work out how much the people losing jobs are being paid in part-time employment – but it seems unlikely to be a good swap.

We will never get the old manufacturing jobs back but we are very good in so many other sectors, parliament needs to assist a solution and quickly.

China

China continues to pump out strong statistics on its economy. Of course some just say the numbers are fudged but there is increasing support from a number of independent sources to suggest China is even stronger than the official figures suggest!

China Retail Sales came in at +10.7% and Industrial Output at +6.1%. China’s inflation was +1.9%. This is an impressive set of numbers.

U.S.A.

The US non-farm payrolls (jobs) data have been slightly better in recent months than earlier in the year, but they are still well below the data recorded in 2014 and 2015. The US too has the problem of replacing ‘good traditional’ jobs with lower paying jobs in the services sector. It is a global problem.

The US economy is getting stronger but it is unlikely to ‘pop’ into overheated growth anytime soon – as it often used to do after a lean spell. But that is a good thing. Stability is something that helps investment planning.

Europe

The UK has not imploded after the Brexit vote. We never thought it would. Sensible discussions are taking place about the best way to exit – and not if they should exit. It is nice to see a mature political debate.

‘Rock star’ central banker, Canadian Mark Carney, has flagged he will step down from the top job at the Bank of England. He plans to exit in June 2019 when the UK is set to exit the EU. He believes in a united Europe and so does not want to work in an economic and social environment that he does not believe in.

The ECB President, Mario Draghi, needs to come up with a new plan soon for stimulus or see the bond-buying plan end. If his form is anything to go by, it will be a slow process of coming to make a plan.

Rest of the World

The conflicts in the Russia/Syria (and more) part of the world are going through major transitions. It is inappropriate in an economic report to comment on the rights and wrongs of the negotiations and struggles. But it does look like the impact on markets might start to subside soon.

OPEC seems to be trying to do something sensible about oil prices but some members – and others – are trying to get special circumstance agreements. Given that supply has been well in excess of the current agreement – for years – the impact of a new agreement is moot.

*Ron Bewley (PhD,FASSA) – Director, Woodhall Investment Research

Important information

This information is the opinion of PATRON Financial Services Pty Ltd ABN 32 307 788 137 908 AFSL No. 307379 trading as PATRON Financial Advice and may contain general advice that does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, readers need to consider whether this information is appropriate to their circumstances.

Economic Update – September 2016

September 5th, 2016

business-world-financial-data-abstract-background-15228374

 

 

 

 

 

Economic Update

By Ron Bewley*.  

Within this month’s update, we share with you a snapshot of economic occurrences both nationally and from around the globe.
With Brexit fears cast aside:

– United Kingdom (UK) confidence bounces back
– United States (US) Federal Reserve claims economy strengthening
– Japan ready to add more stimulus

We hope you find this month’s Economic Update as informative as always. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss any aspect of this report, please contact your Financial Adviser.

The Big Picture

It is just a year since some reports on the China stock market sell-off last August predicted doom and gloom. As we suggested at the time, it wasn’t a major problem because that market was, and is, in its infancy. The market stabilised, and it is now comfortably above those 2015 lows.

At the end of 2015, some nerves were rattled about the prospects of Federal Reserve rate hikes in the US. While occasional bouts of uncertainty continue to cloud market movements, the successive Fed meetings have gone reasonably smoothly.

In January 2016, the Royal Bank of Scotland told us to ‘Sell everything’ and some other big houses made similar dire predictions. Markets are comfortably up and selling wasn’t the answer.

Oil and iron ore prices dived in February 2016. Iron ore prices dipped below $40 but later climbed to $70. Oil was predicted by some to get down to $20, or even $10, when it was $26. Instead, prices have more or less doubled. Another ‘crisis’ averted!

And then there was ‘Brexit’, and the dire predictions that went with it. The ‘leave’ vote won, but consumer confidence jumped 3% in the UK in the first month following the referendum. Markets are stable and the pundits got it wrong again.

Of course, at some point, an event will come along that will have a medium-term adverse impact on our investments, but most of these stories are simply overblown in quiet news periods. At this point we feel that all of those ‘scare stories’ are fading into oblivion and there are no new major known issues brewing.

At home, our labour force data isn’t great, but the mid-year fall in full-time employment seems to have turned around. Unemployment is stable at 5.7%. Our Reserve Bank is expected to cut rates again – from 1.75% to 1.50% sometime this year – but that is more to align our rate with the rest of the world rather than a reaction to avert major issues at home.

News in August was dominated by the Olympics. Australia was disappointed but ‘Team GB’ beat all expectations. There are big lessons for economic management to be learnt from these results.

Australian Olympic success was at a low in Seoul, 1988. Government funding was pumped in with increasing success to match – until, that is, at Beijing and after.
Great Britain (GB) hit its nadir in 1996 at Atlanta, with only one gold medal being won. The national lottery was born with substantial taxes going to sports’ funding.

In both cases it took time for athletes to respond, but pumping money into a venture alone is not an investment. Just like with migrants, the expression “The first generation makes it, the second builds on it, and the third loses it” might apply to economies and sports alike. But our athletes might now be doing as well – it’s just that others are rapidly improving.

Importantly, Australia was reported to have concentrated funding on our traditional sports. GB, on the other hand, looked for opportunities in sports they had not previously been good at. GB’s plan seems to have thrown up many unexpected successes.

The reaction to the GFC was for governments to cut back on fiscal spending around the world. Now we need well-tailored programmes to start the next phases of growth. Not pink batts, but spending on considered infrastructure projects and the like could be what we need now. But with our government system living on minority leadership for too many years, it is difficult to see from where such a programme will come.

In the meantime, growth might be a little below par but good enough. A shot in the arm for infrastructure could well be the start for a return to our desired long-run growth path.

Asset Classes

Australian Equities

The ASX 200 did lose 2.3% in August, but that followed a massive +6.3% gain in July. Virtually all sectors lost ground in August but market volatility remains reasonably low.

After reporting season in August our view of the fundamentals remains strong, we expect the 2016/17 financial year to be strong. The calendar year-to-date for 2016 posted a gain of +5.6% including dividends.

The high-yield sectors of Financials, Property, Telcos and Utilities continued to seriously lag behind the other sectors in 2016 y-t-d including dividends. Indeed, capital losses in high-yield have more than wiped out dividend payouts. The total returns of the ‘other’ sectors have exceeded +14% y-t-d.

Foreign Equities

Wall Street hit some new all-time highs in August. The VIX fear index reached quite low levels suggesting markets are quite settled even if August was not a strong month for markets.

With a rate hike in the US unlikely before December, only the Presidential election seems likely to interfere with a smooth finish into the end of 2016.

Bonds and Interest Rates

The RBA kept rates on hold again in Australia. The Fed Reserve’s second-in-command caused some volatility with his comments, shortly after Chair Yellen made her views known. While Yellen saw the chance of a hike strengthening with good economic data, Fischer went further putting September back on the table. December is still our call for the first hike.

Other Assets

Oil prices have seemingly stabilised on talks between OPEC and Russia. At current prices, oil is too cheap to warrant shale oil to come back on stream in the US and too high to cause major concerns going forward.

The VIX volatility – or fear – index reached a low for 2016 during August. Our dollar did vary somewhat over the month but the change on the month was relatively small.

Regional Analysis

Australia

On the face of it our employment data grew strongly, but full-time employment fell while part-time employment did the work. The unemployment rate was steady at 5.7%.

Trend full-time employment – the official preferred method – has started to pick up – possibly because of the earlier rate cut.

China

The month started reasonably well with the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) at 49.5 for manufacturing – which is just below the break-even 50 level. The services version of the PMI continues to be well above 50 as the domestic economy takes over from infrastructure expenditure.Mid-month retail sales and industrial production did miss forecasts by a fraction but not enough to worry markets.

U.S.A.

Janet Yellen talked up the strengthening US economy at the annual Central Bankers’ conference in Jackson Hole. There is no doubt that employment data has bounced back strongly from the earlier mini-slump. But two good numbers are not enough to eradicate all discomfort.

Europe

The Brexit vote won at the end of July. August Retail Sales surged at +1.4% against an expected +0.1%. UK confidence also surged from a three year low to 109.8 from 106.6. With Olympic success as well, it seems the UK has side-stepped the issues that some worried about earlier in the year.The Bank of England did cut its rate at the start of August and also pumped in some unexpected monetary stimulus.

Germany’s GDP came in at +0.4% for the quarter smashing expectations. There are also other pockets of mild success. Brexit will happen slowly so trade deals can be renegotiated far before trade becomes an issue.

Rest of the World

Japan can’t win a trick, as they just recorded another month of deflation. Japan is pledging to continue to stimulate the economy as required.Japan’s problem is its falling population. Many countries, such as ours, would also look a little glum if populations were not growing!

*Ron Bewley (PhD,FASSA) – Director, Woodhall Investment Research

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Important information

This information is the opinion of Infocus Securities Australia Pty Ltd ABN 47 097 797 049 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence No. 236523 trading as Infocus Wealth Management and may contain general advice that does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, readers need to consider whether this information is appropriate to their circumstances.