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A bear market, the G-20 circus & another report.

September 28th, 2011 · Greg Atkinson · 38 Comments

This week the Australian stock market slid into what I would call a bear market although some would argue that it has avoided such fate by a whisker. The reality is however that the ASX All Ordinaries did close below 4000 recently and that represents a drop of just over 20% from levels seen in April. If it looks and feels like a bear market, then for me it is a bear market.

Some weeks ago I had thought that the market was oversold and that we would see the All Ords rally past 4000 and edge slowly up towards 4800 again. But the ongoing debt crisis in Europe has knocked global markets around and the Australian stock market has not fared well.

ASX All Ordinaries Index 6 month candlestick chart


The candlestick chart above clearly indicates how the ASX All Ords has tracked steadily downwards over the last 6 months apart from holding on pretty well in July. We had a dip in August which I thought was a sign that stocks were oversold, but alas it wasn’t the case and recently the stock market dipped underneath that low.

Now the struggle will be for the ASX All Ords Index to hold above 4000 which I believe it will and despite the turmoil across the global markets, I still think the All Ords & ASX 200 will finish higher by the end of the year.

They will probably struggle to get near 4800 but we still have 3 months of trading until the end of the year and a lot can happen to the stock market in that time.

On a brighter note the Baltic Dry Index is now trading around it’s 20 year average so slowly the shipping sector might be working itself out which would be a positive development.

But never fear, the G-20 circus rolled into Washington D.C recently and true to form issued an almost meaningless communiqué which was nonetheless eagerly regurgitated by the media pack, many of whom enjoyed overseas trip to simply re-type media releases.

In an awe inspiring example of spin over substance the G-20 communiqué contains this piece of drivel

“We are taking strong actions to maintain financial stability, restore confidence and support growth. In Europe, Euro area countries have taken major actions to ensure the sustainability of public finances, and are implementing the decisions taken by Euro area Leaders on 21 July 2011. Specifically, the euro area will have implemented by the time of our next meeting the necessary actions to increase the flexibility of the EFSF and to maximize its impact in order to address contagion. The US has put forward a significant package to strengthen growth and employment through public investments, tax incentives, and targeted jobs measures, combined with fiscal reforms designed to restore fiscal sustainability over the medium term.”

Source: Communiqué- Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central bank Governors, Washington DC, 22 September 2011

Translation: Borrowing billions and trying to spend our way out of a debt crisis didn’t work. Ooops.

For the next few years at least, the European Union and United States are going to have to try and deal with the new reality of lower growth. They hope that they can bounce back by riding the growth in emerging economies but it remains to be seen how robust many of the emerging economies really are.

Of course everyone seems to be counting on China to keep growing rapidly thereby solving the world’s economic woes but as I keep saying, all economies go through cycles and China’s economy will also. Hopefully the slowdown in the Chinese economy will not be severe, but I would not bet the farm on it.

Meanwhile back in Australia, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has asked Ken Henry to put together another report, this time he going to look into Australia’s role in Asia. (yet again)

I suspect this report, which will cost taxpayers a small fortune, will end up filed in the dungeon with Henry’s last masterpiece – the Australian Taxation Review. But at least we were paying Ken Henry less when he worked for The Treasury, now we are effectively paying him a lot more and will end up with a report we could probably find via a Google search.

It also seems that the Australia 2020 Summit was a complete waste of time (no surprise there) as Australia’s ‘best and brightest’ also looked into the issue of Australia’s role in Asia at that Rudd inspired love-fest in 2008. Action points were even developed, but of course nothing was ever followed up on and nothing of any substance will result from the latest political smokescreen exercise either.

The lights are on at The Lodge in Canberra but nobody is home – if you catch my meaning.

Is it any wonder we are in a bear market again?

Greg Atkinson is the editor of Shareswatch Australia and the Managing Director of Ohori Capital He is originally from Australia but currently resides in Japan. He can be followed on twitter via @GregAtkinson_jp

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stillgotshoeson // Sep 29, 2011 at 3:14 am

    The chart is a good indicator of where the market is going to continue to trend. I can see no good news from the Northern Hemisphere to reverse this trend yet, so I full expect the bear run to continue.. albeit with some “spikes” with central bankers playing soccer with the can a little more, volatility will continue, so will the downward trend. I reaffirm my call for new lows in both the ASX and DOW.

    Australia: Mortgage applications are down, building and construction are down. Unemployment has risen and the banks are slicing their own throats just to keep market share.

    RBA is yet to make a move on interest rates, not that I think any downward move will solve the above issues, may help stem the rise in delinquent mortgages, uncertainty is high so I doubt any rate reduction will be a confidence booster for those out of the market. That is even if the banks pass on any rate reduction, they may argue they already have with the current cuts to fixed term mortgages and there is no more fat to trim of rates due to the European situation.

    Silver at $25 is going to be a must buy….

  • 2 Biker // Sep 29, 2011 at 6:26 am

    C-rrri-k-e-y… This stuff is keeping you up late, mate!~

  • 3 Greg Atkinson // Sep 29, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Stillgotshoeson I think you might be right that even if the RBA does cut rates now it probably will not help that much. I suspect we would need rates to come down quite a bit to give the stock market and residential property market a boost.

    As for the U.S. and E.U. all I am looking for is a sign that things are not getting worse and this will hopefully give global markets a boost. But as you say the trend doesn’t look good and you might be proven correct about new lows for the ASX & DOW.

  • 4 Leigh // Sep 29, 2011 at 10:10 am

    In all this volatility we must spare a thought for the brokers.
    Those poor souls are at their desks day and night carrying our buy calls as we take a plunge into what we believe must surely be the market bottom only to have to sell for us two days later as we scramble to take a profit, any profit. Whoops it has gone again; better get in now if we have any cash left; can’t miss what has to be a bargain at these prices. And always the old broker is standing buy to take our order.

    It reminds me of the gold rush stories when the Chinese were bullied from mining they set up tea houses, laundries and hardware stores and did a fair bit better, supplying services to those that dug, than those that dug.

  • 5 Greg Atkinson // Sep 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Leigh I also feel for those who are just a few years from retiring and have money locked up in a Superannuation fund. Back in 2007 a lot of people were sitting on a nice nest egg and now in 2011, many funds would have fallen by 30-40%.

  • 6 Lachlan // Sep 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Leigh they also reworked flogged ground that Europeans had already made easy fortunes on and for very little by comparison…. on the Palmer it is recorded they re-worked some ground up to twice over again. They are maybe not suffering from the high expectations.
    But yes as you say… and where I live there were up to 2000 men digging in the 1800s and only less than 200 made wages which makes the store keepers look…of which as you say were the Chinese… who if they did any digging had to do so at night due while the others were asleep.

  • 7 Biker // Sep 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Greg: “Leigh I also feel for those who are just a few years from retiring and have money locked up in a Superannuation fund. Back in 2007 a lot of people were sitting on a nice nest egg and now in 2011, many funds would have fallen by 30-40%.”

    Greg, there’s a certain QLD realtor who advocates ‘Set and Forget’ as a retirement strategy for those approaching retirement. His strategy is every bit as flawed as that of retirees who practised the same laziness in their a$$et allocation within Super.

    We made a MINT out of Super… and I expect our eldest son will do the same. Younger bloke hasn’t caught on yet, but his current direction is not unproductive.

    I’m retired. Independent. I have numerous attractive options.
    It just doesn’t get much better than this*.
    Super helped us get there.
    No set-and-forget, tho’.

    * Fit and healthy, too, Shoes. I know you’ll appreciate that! 😉

  • 8 Jimbo Jones // Sep 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Thought i would add couple of comments. Has been a dark last couple of months. Bear markets across a few regions. But its worth assessing the state of the SPX 500. As the US is by far the largest equity market globally and rules the flow of funds – it is important to understand the direction of the SPX 500. The ASX 200 is a function of this market priced in USD. The USD is the global reserve currency, so it dicates the flow of global indices.

    The SPX 500 low occurred in the nasty sell off in early August. It has been consolidating this mark for the past 6-8 weeks. They are down about 18%. Not even a Bear market technically as the media would steer you to believe. Still just a typical bull market correction. No different to bull market corrections previously. (keep in mind, the bull market 2002-2007 was instrumental in it suffered no signficant corrections, hence allowing it to suck in more and more investors monies. These corrections currently balance sentiment and hence extend bull market lifes.

    The recent commodity sell off was quite nasty and i was looking for this early on in August in the correction, but markets are unpredictable. November through May generally proves to be a fruitful time for commodities. The june/july/aug/sept/oct has tradtionally been a chance to see opportunities.

    Where to next: Well, VIX levels have consistently been receding from the early August high of over 50. Histroically and the same as when greed runs rampant, VIX can stagnate for a while before the pendulums begins to swing again.

    In the end, its still too early for the SPX 500 cyclical bull market to be finished. It still has not met the resistance levels of the previous 10 year decade highs. So expect this to blow off in 2012 or 2013.

    I understand there are many comparisons going around comparing this to a repeat of 2008 – but the difference between now and 2008 is that EVERYONE IS NOW AWARE OF THIS TREND, while in 2008 NOBODY KNEW IT WOULD END LIKE THAT. A BIG difference.

    Casting an eye across the market, we still have a few more years of this secular (NOT cyclical) bear market for equities, so the most prosperous places to make money will be in commodities.

    The ASX 200 will need to come to terms with the changing structural landscape for many non mining companies. and just remember, commodites leverage both ways to market movements, so expecting volatility is important, but you can never correctly time an exact bottom – just like a top, but keep ahead of the key indicators and you will be plenty rewarded. But be alert to where capital is deployed, and ensuring that the correct bull market sectors are maximised.

  • 9 Greg Atkinson // Sep 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Jimbo thank for you input. Your point about the size of the U.S. stock market is a god one, sometimes we can forget that the Australian stock market in size terms is a bit like a flea on the back of a very large dog.

    I would normally be a fan of commodities but I am a touch bearish on the outlook for China. I think the property construction sector there is probably over-heated and if this sector was to hit the skids then I suspect copper, iron ore and coking coal prices would slump taking many other commodities down with them.

    As reported by Bloomberg recently:

    Bad debts may cut China’s growth rate to near zero from 9.5 percent, hurting a global economy that’s already weighed down by Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and a stagnant U.S. job market, according to Chanos, founder of New York-based hedge fund Kynikos Associates LP.

    You can hear more of what Jim Chanos has to say by watching this video clip from Bloomberg.

  • 10 Stillgotshoeson // Sep 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Biker // Sep 29, 2011 at 6:26 am

    C-rrri-k-e-y… This stuff is keeping you up late, mate!~

    No, sleeping fine Biker over this stuff… Was out to dinner with my friend/partner in one of business ventures started this year. Can’t recall if you were in business for yourself at any stage, however I am sure readers here are/have been… Anyway we have been crunching nubers and dealing with government/council issues. Beauracracy and red tape and some cost blow outs have seen the venture vacuum out a fair bit of working capital so far. Hoping to have opened up to public by now but we are still a month away.

    Greg, whilst I am convinced we will touch new lows, I am not ruling out central bank/government policy “intervening” for a last hoorah that sends the indexes back up.. It won’t work long term, it can’t last but will be fun to watch.

  • 11 Mr Editor // Sep 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Sorry, but I can’t help but add my own input to the debate about the Chinese economy. I too am bearish on global commodities due to China’s huge contribution to their demand.

    As I said in July,,
    “…innumerable retail investors comfortably invest in ‘too big to fail’ companies like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, without taking into consideration the risks and the likelihood of a slowdown in China.”

  • 12 Ned S // Sep 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Bernanke is being a bit of a party pooper of late. Basically reckons he can’t give the US long term growth – The pollies are going to have to pull that rabbit out of a hat:

  • 13 Lachlan // Sep 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Yeah Ned and as long as Benny and the Inkjets are breaking for intermission the markets won’t dance either. Stinks… may be waiting for the politicians to squark like a buncha baby magpies before he jams a quick 3 trill down their throats.

  • 14 Ned S // Sep 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Greg: “Hopefully the slowdown in the Chinese economy will not be severe, but I would not bet the farm on it”

    A main stream American commentor’s take on China at the moment:

    Surprises me a bit that the markets are holding up as well as they are Lachlan. But then I am pretty much convinced these days that when it comes to any market I’m always wrong! 🙂

  • 15 Ned S // Sep 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Greg: ” I also feel for those who are just a few years from retiring and have money locked up in a Superannuation fund”

    Just had a yarn to my favourite US retiree – A tad under 1% on cash is what she and her hubby are getting. It’s not easy.

  • 16 Biker // Sep 30, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Ned: “A tad under 1% on cash is what she and her hubby are getting. It’s not easy.”

    Canadians likewise, Ned. There is a scheme here which is titled ‘Tax-Free Savings Account’, but it limits each saver to just $5K per year… and at 1% interest, it’s considered a bit of a joke!

    Compare this to the FHSAS, which delivers 22%+ – 31%, depending on length of contribution. Yes, it’s limited to either First Home or Super, but what a return. Even the Barefoot Bloke gives it his blessing…

    We really don’t know how lucky we are in Oz!~ 😀

  • 17 Biker // Sep 30, 2011 at 2:59 am

    CHINA: Just read a remarkable analysis in the Vancouver Sun, Ned. Can’t find it online, or I’d send it.

    Essentially it argues that population and economic pressure on China’s first-tier and second-tier cities is ‘forcing’ relocation of families to the outer cities. To what extent this urbanisation is ‘forced’ (either by regime or actual fruition of The Plan) wasn’t made clear, but the article proposed that the construction occurring in these outer cities would fuel China’s development for the decade to come.

    The OECD’s forecast of a fall from 9.5% to 9.0% growth for 2012 was considered part of China’s attempt to rein-in inflation and temper growth. The point was made that any western country would be ecstatic at such growth.

    It’s tempting to believe that the article was exactly timed to coincide with BC Premier Christy Clark’s “All the way with China” speech last week, but I see our own PM has taken up that cry back home…

    Friend just sold a smallish _rural_ home here for $2.1mil.
    Another (Canadian) just paid $2.4mil for a home in NSW, north of Sydney. (He’d never heard of Steve Keen, BTW… .)

    It’s not all doom’n’gloom!~ 🙂

  • 18 Greg Atkinson // Sep 30, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Ned I have been expressing my concerns about the China ‘miracle’ economy for a year or more. Like I keep saying, all economies move through cycles and I reckon China is now entering the downward leg of its cycle now. The big question that more and more people are asking now is: how much will the Chinese economy slow down by?

    Anyway I have wriiten about this before and am on the record as being bearish on China as I wrote back in April in The China property bubble and an economy hooked on growth

    It’s a waiting game now.

  • 19 Leigh // Sep 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

    The interesting thing about China is that they own a fair chunk of the world’s debt and therefore they now have an interest in making the global merry go round, go round. Any down turn in their growth affecting the income of supplying nations may come back to bite them in reduced or delayed debt repayments. That doesn’t mean they wont slowdown, it just means we may all be in the same flushing toilet together.
    By the way I was being a little cynical about concern for brokers,they must surely be the one group that welcomes a volatile market.

  • 20 Greg Atkinson // Sep 30, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Leigh I missed the tone of the comment about brokers the first time around 😉

    The China – U.S. relationship is pretty interesting. China lends the U.S. money and then the U.S. buys Chinese goods and invests back into China. They need each other and yet you get the feeling they don’t trust each other much.

    But the U.S. needs to keep borrowing and China needs to keep selling so for now the ‘circle of trust’ remains..sort of.

  • 21 Biker // Sep 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Just when I was starting to think you’d become a permabear, Greg
    (I couldn’t find anything positive you’ve written for _yonks_)
    I recalled your interest in solar/wind-driven shipping!~ 🙂

    Apart from that tiny glimmer of optimism, do you see any other faint light(s) at the end of the financial tunnel? 😉

  • 22 Greg Atkinson // Sep 30, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I consider myself more of an contrarian than a ‘permabear”. Obviously I believe that over the longer term the global economy will sort itself out hence the reason I am invested in stocks and don’t have gold bars under my bed.

    Funnily enough back in 2008/2009 when the doom crowd were predicting the collapse of capitalism I was accused of being too optimistic because I dared to suggest that maybe the wheels of industry would keep turning.

    Anyway as I mentioned in the post above ‘On a brighter note the Baltic Dry Index is now trading around it’s 20 year average so slowly the shipping sector might be working itself out which would be a positive development’ so that is one beam of light I see at the moment.

    Lower commodity prices would also be good sign (not too good for Oz though) and we may be seeing prices for iron ore, coal and copper finally coming off highs at the moment.

    So it’s not all gloom out there.

  • 23 Biker // Oct 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I guess if Shoes can cite a meal with the owner of a 5-acre property as evidence of his infallibility, I’m not entirely out-of-place in quoting comments from one of BC’s leading manufacturers, an exporter of high-quality equipment to the US!

    Bloke we just dined with tonight laughed at your perceptions of China, fellas! Ordinarily, I’d be reluctant to cast aspersions, but this is a guy who is actually _doing_ what you say Oz manufacturers should be doing, Greg.

    Contrarianism is the new religion, but you may need to revise your ongoing pessimism in the next decade or two, Greg. Being ‘contrary’ may be cool, but this Mover & Shaker thinks you’re wrong. (Great to be counselled by an entrepreneur who could buy and sell us all at least a hundred times!)

    As you say, Greg: “It’s a waiting game now.”
    Last time I heard that, it came from Keen… 😉

  • 24 Ned S // Oct 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Biker? 😉

    Effed if I know what’s going on. But SINCERE best wishes to anyone who reckons they do …

  • 25 Biker // Oct 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I actually _need_ this kind of optimistic perception from time-to-time, Ned. I look back over past flat periods and recall we comfortably maintained a positive long-term view of the future, without needing such reassurance.

    The new instant media empower the permabears. When you dine with a bloke worth at least half a billion bucks and listen to his view of what’s ahead, it’s quite powerful. One thing Bob (61) said tonight is that none of us (58 – 64) will be around to see where China’s achievements will climax. Perceptions of a ‘miracle’ transformation are insufficient to describe what’s happening. The scale is just too vast.

    Yes, he is well aware of political / social restraints.
    He believes they’ll be insignificant in China’s rise.

    About to fly to Mexico as I write…

  • 26 Ned S // Oct 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    It certainly is a bit mind boggling when one talks to people who are a bit in the loop who can tell them things like China is building a new coal fired power station every week Biker.

    Travel safe mate … And don’t forget to suck the last bit of moisture out of the grubs in the bottoms of your Tequila bottles! 🙂

  • 27 Greg Atkinson // Oct 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Biker if the guy you dined is such a ‘mover and shaker’ then perhaps you could name him or provide some links to his views about China backed up by data? Or is ‘Bob’ the half a billion dollar man publicity shy?

  • 28 Stillgotshoeson // Oct 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I hold great expectations of China and India both supporting Australias (rosy) Economic Future. Does not alter my belief that in the short term we are going to face a bad period, many will be slaughtered financially. Too many people do not take enough interest in their own financial affairs. Australia will boom again. Even counting China looking to South America and Africa for resources I still believe our resource sector will provide great wealth to Australia for years to come.

    I have concerns as to how that wealth will be squandered, not that it is not going to continue to come.

    I am flexible in my investment strategy, one should always be.
    What bests suits my needs. Risk vs Reward. Economic trends and outlook short, medium and long term.

    @Biker My friends bought that 5 acre block in 1986 for $125000

  • 29 Biker // Oct 2, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Yes, he _is_ one of those quiet achievers… not unlike my Aussie cousin who established one of the nation’s largest and most successful businesses and is virtually unknown in his own country, Greg.

    I don’t have permission to provide either Bob’s or my cousin’s surnames online. Both are optimists. Neither could have achieved wealth or comfort without a very positive focus… and hard work. Both have value-added in the very way you propose Australia(ns) (and Canadians?) should.

    We’ve met few China-knockers travelling in North America (none so far in Canada). Maybe our propensity for lopping the tall poppies is a cultural hangover from the First Fleet(?) 😉

  • 30 Greg Atkinson // Oct 2, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Fair enough Biker. When you have some data or sources you can name then that would be interesting to read about.

  • 31 Lachlan // Oct 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    “for now the ‘circle of trust’ remains..sort of.”

    Regarding Chinas growth in the short/medium term this about makes the sum total of my concerns Greg. Granted the place is a type of bubble. But ever since the modern fiscal/monetary status quo was established we are most of the time investing in bubbles…as long as they have more potential to inflate. Obviously that is the at the centre of the argument.
    So at this stage I don’t think China US relations are about to dive but if they did I’d be both surprised and bearish.

  • 32 Ross T // Oct 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Forget about china saving us, as the therapists say “you can only control yourself, not others”.
    After visiting Hawaii I now realize that Australia has much the same relationship to Asia that Hawaii has to the rest of USA. People enjoy being there and want to come back for more, the only things holding them back are cost and distance. The only other thing that could stop repeat visits is major changes to the australia we know. I dont know what it is like in other states, but it is often a case of “spot the aussie” over here in WA, so unlike our investors the countrys character is changing, thanks to 250,000+ migrants pa since Rudd. The most obvious difference I noted in the US was “where are the headscarves and burqas? America has lots of migrants, but they are closet multi-culturalists, and do not change the character of the USA as much as in Oz.
    Now our economy and rate of population growth has slowed (are the migrants moving back?) we face the twin issues of enlarged demand on our welfare and retirement of baby boomer taxpayers and businesses. Canberra has responded with more green tape, and new taxes on fuel, mining, CO2 along with a new industrial workplace based on collective bargaining.
    Business has run through the developments put together in the last decade, now they seem to be walking around like stunned mullets, putting away cash til Tony Abbot get voted in. The market seems to reflect this malaise. To sum up. Sideways for 12 months followed by a boom after the QLD election (if the polls prove correct).

  • 33 Biker // Oct 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Life in a Third World Economy (after the cruise ships ceased docking here) is certainly interesting. Tax drivers disdain one’s tips(!) so we travel by bus…. . 😀

    Reminds me of Greg’s headine: What would an economic slump in Australia look like(?)

    Biker, Sole Mare, Mazatlan

  • 34 Greg Atkinson // Oct 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

    What is interesting is that while the global economy is clearly struggling back in Australia the PM has kicked off a study to work out how Australia fits into Asia and Swanny is holding a tax forum.

    Perhaps it might be wiser to work out how the economy will handle commodity prices coming off the boil and look at issues such as how we can better manage our resources on a national scale?

    Maybe we can also get a little crazy and take some measures to make the economy outside mining more competitive?

  • 35 Ned S // Oct 4, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Swanny’s approach tells the story Greg:

    Plan A
    Part 1 – Get Asians to give Aussies money
    Part 2 – Remove Aussies’ money from them

    Plan B
    Whadaya mean Plan B? I didn’t get to be the world’s greatest treasurer by giving up on a good thing! 😀

  • 36 Ned S // Oct 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    And Swanny said “Oh well, you win some; You lose some” :

  • 37 Biker // Oct 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Yes, but… 100.00 CAD = 94.8088 USD

    So perhaps it’s more about US currency than Ozbuck weakne$$…

    We’ve had nearly eleven weeks of win$ there, so we can’t complain. 😀

    Biker, Flamingos, Mazatlan

  • 38 Ned S // Oct 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Oz commodities – Prices down but volumes up.
    Anyone’s guess how long that’ll last?
    But way better than prices down and volumes down for now at least hey? 🙂

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