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Companies report next week and I hope profits match our improving economy!

Peter Switzer
1 February 2018


On Wednesday next week, we commence our company reporting season and CBA will be the star show-and-tell operation. A better-than-expected result will be great for our super funds, but it could raise more questions about why it's so profitable.

The other big reports will come from the top fund manager Magellan on Tuesday, Rio Tinto on Wednesday, while we will see AGL Energy, AMP, Mirvac, carsales.com and Tabcorp on Thursday.

So what am I hoping for? That’s easy. I want the collective profit story that emerges to show that our improving economy is helping company bottom lines.

If that happens, our stock market will spike, our super funds will look even better and there will be a surge in confidence that will propel both stock prices and the economy over 2018. This, in turn, will drive business investment and wages higher and the related stronger economy will push our Budget Deficit down ever further. It will be the economic scenario that could make Malcolm Turnbull’s Government more popular and test Bill Clinton’s observation about politics that “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Regular readers know I’ve been pointing to the run of very good economic data of late. In fact, for the past year, the economic readings have improved and the past six months have made me even more positive about my outlook for 2018.

The star fact has been 403,000 jobs in 12 months, of which 303,000 were full-time! Business investment plans are starting to rise and now more economists have looked at their economic crystal balls and have said they expect wages to rise faster in 2018 than in recent years.

And this week’s economic revelations have not dented my positivity, even if inflation this week didn’t quite get to where optimists like me would have liked.

To see if you want to get on board my growth train for this year, here’s this week’s economic story:

The NAB business conditions index rose from +13.0 points to +13.2 points in December. The business confidence index rose from to +6.8 points to +11.1 points, which is a huge spike.

The weekly ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating rose by 1.3% last week. The short-term outlook for the economy is the brightest since April 2013.

The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.6% in the December quarter, below expectations for a lift of 0.7% but the annual rate of inflation rose from 1.8% to 1.9% so it's heading where the RBA wants but just not as fast as it would like.

The CBA/Markit Manufacturing index eased to 55.4 in January from 57.1 in December. The Australian Industry Group (AiG) manufacturing index increased to 58.7 in January from 56.2 in December but a reading above 50.0 indicates that the sector is expanding!

• Australia’s terms of trade rose in the December quarter. Prices of our largest exports — iron ore, liquefied natural gas, coal and metals — all rose amid a global upswing in economic activity. Commodity prices have risen to around 3-year highs, boosting national income. 

The CoreLogic Home Value Index of capital city home prices fell by 0.5% in January to stand 3.2% higher over the year. The national home price index fell by 0.3% and it was the smallest annual growth in national prices in 16 months. (This is what the RBA wanted — a slow down in the booming housing market.)

House approvals are up by 5.5% over the year to December – the strongest annual growth rate in seasonally adjusted terms in 2½ years but in trend terms overall approvals declined by 1.7% – the third consecutive monthly decline. (The sector is softening but it’s not a dramatic collapse.)

• Private sector credit (effectively loans) rose by 0.3% in December, after a 0.4% rise in November. Annual credit growth fell from 5.2% to a 3½-year low of 4.8%. This is the slowdown the RBA also wanted.

Looking at this data for the week, it’s not yelling that we’re in gangbusters land yet but the trend is telling me we’re on the way. And 2018 is going to be a better economic and stock price story than 2017, which was OK with stocks up about 10% or so including dividends.

The expectation for company profit growth is around 5% but if we can top that and the all-important outlook for growth story for profits is better than expected, then our stock market will surge.

The next three weeks is like grand final time for someone like me and if you prefer being richer rather than poorer with your super, and you prefer to be an economy where wages and profits are growing and jobs are more plentiful as well as more secure, then start rooting for a great profit show-and-tell story over the next three weeks.

Go Australia!


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