Investment Week In Review - 30 May 2016

By Marcus Damen - May 30, 2016

So while it appears that the US economy has been coping with higher interest rates, that is not entirely true.

News In Review

  • The US manufacturing PMI* for May slipped 0.3pts to a new cyclical low of 50.5 in May, the lowest level seen since September 2009, while Europe’s PMI* edged down to 51.1 despite modestly firmer readings from Germany and France, indicating some weakness from the peripheral economies.  Japan’s Nikkei manufacturing PMI* edged down to 47.6 in May, which is the lowest reading since December 2012.
  • In China, the Westpac-MNI consumer confidence index fell to 114.2 in May, though optimists continue to outweigh pessimists (a reading of 100 is deemed neutral, meaning the number of optimists and pessimists are equal), with all of the survey’s five subindices weakened during the month. Perhaps of greatest concern was the deterioration in sentiment towards the housing market, particularly as policymakers appear to be relying upon higher house prices to generate greater levels of household spending and increased construction activity to spur economic growth.
  • Australia’s building data revealed that construction work had fallen 2.6% over the first quarter of calendar 2016. Private residential construction rose 1.4% in that period, though this was offset by weakening in both private non-residential building (down 7.6%) and private engineering construction (down 6.8%).  Total construction work done in the public sector rose 2.5% in the first quarter and was up 5.4% for the 12 months to 31 March, a turnaround after almost five years of negative growth.
    US durable goods orders rose a much larger than expected 3.4% in April thanks to a 39% jump in aircraft and parts orders. Non-defence capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, fell 0.8% after an upwardly revised 0.1% drop the prior month. These core capital goods orders have now declined for three consecutive months. 
  • It was confirmed in the UK that GDP grew 0.4% in the first quarter of calendar 2016, although annual GDP growth was slightly revised down to 2.0% YoY. The detail showed a 0.7% quarterly increase in household and total domestic expenditure, net exports however subtracted from growth during the quarter.
  • Australia’s CAPEX survey revealed a larger than expected 5.2% decline in spending in the first quarter of calendar 2016, with the March figure also revealing a persistent pessimistic outlook, although projections are not as depressed as they were at the end of the December quarter.
    *Purchasing Manager’s Index - an indicator of activity where readings over 50 indicate expansion


While there is increasing expectations of another interest rate rise in the US in coming months (the futures market suggests approximately 1/3 chance in June and 2/3 chance by July), it seems that overall borrowing costs continue to fall as the longer term rates have been falling by more than the short term rates have been rising. The flattening of the yield curve over the past 6 months (since just prior to the first interest rate rise in December) is evident below:

As house mortgages in the US are typically tied to the 30 year bond yield, mortgage rates have actually been dropping during the period that the short term cash rate has been increasing. So while it appears that the US economy has been coping with higher interest rates, that is not entirely true. It is difficult to see how interest rates can rise materially until the level of debt relative to GDP begins to fall materially.

The Week Ahead

  • US: ISM Manufacturing (MAY), Consumer Confidence (MAY), Change in Non-farm Payrolls (MAY)
  • Australia: HIA New Home Sales (MoM) (APR), Private Sector Credit (YoY) (APR) 
  • Europe: European Central Bank Rate Decision (JUN 2)
  • China: CNY Manufacturing PMI (MAY)
  • Japan: Retail Trade (YoY) (APR), Jobless Rate (APR)

Company News

  • Southern Cross Austereo will be the official commercial FM radio broadcaster of the Rio Olympics in August. The broadcaster will stream the action through its Triple M network in Australia and a new `7 Rio Live' digital channel as part of a partnership with long-time Olympic rights holder Seven Network.

  • The ACCC is preparing to examine a possible takeover of domestic appliances chain The Good Guys by rival JB Hi-Fi. The Good Guys is also considering a float on the share market in an IPO that would value the business at about $800m.

  • Bluescope Steel has lifted its second-half earnings guidance following cost cutting and an increase in steel and iron ore prices. The Melbourne-based company says it expects underlying earnings before interest and tax of about $270 million, a big increase on its previous estimate of $209 million for the six months to June 30.

  • Australia's big four banks have all been ranked among the largest 100 companies in the world according to Forbes’ annual ‘Global 2000 List’. CBA is the top-ranked Australian company at No.58 with a market value of $137.71 billion.  Rivals Westpac (72), ANZ (84) and NAB (88) are also in the top 100, with telco giant Telstra the next highest ranked Australian company at No.262.

  • Amid milk price cuts from southern Australia’s largest processors, Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, Parmalat and A2 Milk were keen to emphasise they would not be cutting their prices. A2 Milk’s chief executive Peter Nathan said his company’s suppliers were protected by long-term fixed price contracts and there were no plans for prices to change. 

Markets in Review


Capital Return





S&P ASX 200








S&P 500
























$1 Australian buys you:








ASX200 Sector Performance for the Week

ASX200 Biggest Movers for the Week


This material is intended for the use of the clients of Pitcher Partners Investment Services only.  It is current at the date of preparation, but may be subject to change.  This document does not constitute financial product advice.  It is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on the information you should consider the appropriateness of it having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs and seek independent advice.  You should obtain and consider a Product Disclosure Statement in relation to any financial product before making any decision about acquiring the product.  To the maximum extent permitted by law, Pitcher Partners Investment Services Pty Ltd and its representatives will not be liable for any loss or damage incurred by any person directly or indirectly for any use or reliance on this document.

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