Economic growth has halved, debt has rocketed, but the share market is up and bond yields have collapsed. Female representation in Cabinet is down to one quarter, yet women on top boards have edged up to nearly 35%. This is the MW30, a quarterly snapshot of Australia.
The most radical movements for the year to December have been in interest rates. ASX200 is up 18% but two year bond rates are down 60% over the year and ten year bonds yields have halved – these are an indicator of lower economic activity. Bear in mind, however, this economic malaise is before the “Triple Black Swan” effect of bushfires, floods and the virus.
Meanwhile, pay for low income workers has kept pace with inflation. Minimum wages have risen above inflation. Although rents have not risen, finance costs are down. All of this means that the less fortunate among us are not doing as nicely as those living off their investments – their shares and property. One Qantas business class fare from Perth to London return – 34 hours – remains stable at around 85% of the annual dole.
This brings us to the prickly subject of franking credits. Once again, if you are at the top of the tree, you can afford to put four grandchildren through the most prestigious private schools in the country just by using the bank dividends and franking credits in your untaxed super fund. A substantial amount of private school fees are paid by grandparents, and we can assume a good deal of this comes from franking credit pensions.
Morrison and Frydenberg’s 544 days in office
Scott Morrison has been Prime Minister for 544 days. Josh Frydenberg has been Treasurer. Morrison was previously treasurer. You can see their economic performance versus other Treasurers here.
This is the fourth time we have published the MW30 (below). These are numbers – social, political and economic – which reflect Australia now and the way the country is changing. The latest is a three-month snapshot as at December 15, 2019.
Some of the numbers result from decisions made by government. Others reflect market expectations. Many follow from the intersection of the two. All numbers are averages of three days around the 15th in the month of each quarter.
Late news (after our Dec 31 cutoff)
Bridget MacKenzie’s exclusion from the cabinet reduces the female ministers from 30.4% to 26.1%. Female directors of ASX20 companies are now at 34.7%.
Commonwealth Bank has become the first ASX20 company with a majority of female directors. The recent departure of a male director left the women to men ratio at 5 to 4. It was not reported anywhere but is significant in that this, the CBA, is on some measures the biggest institution in the country and it is now dominated at the highest level by a majority of women.
The economy: bottom deferred by three black swans?
The nation’s numbers point to an economy struggling to find an upside. We sensed a bottom had occurred around the middle of October 19 with both the CPI and the spread between 2 and 10 Year bond rates moving up.
But now we have January’s “3 black swans”: fire, flood and virus. The next GDP numbers are due in March. These won’t help us to understand what’s going on because they stop at December 31, 2019. We’ll wait until June for a meaningful update.
The RBA is suggesting any short-term downturn will be followed by an upturn as construction work rebuilds small businesses. Closely watched will be China’s approach to Australia’s Big 4 exports: iron ore, coal, tourism and education.
Apart from the minimum wage, low income workers are keeping pace with inflation and rises in the cost of living reported by ASFA, (Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia). The minimum wage is now 2.6 times the dole. AFSA says it takes three times the dole for a single person aged 65 to live comfortably.
Meanwhile a grandparent living off a Self Managed Super Fund in pension phase with the $1.6 million cap invested in bank shares receives enough in franking credits to fund a Year 12 student’s fees at one of Australia’s more prestigious private schools ($36,500 pa, up by 3.8% this year). So franking credits will do it, with money left over.
Adding in the dividends provides just about enough (tax free) to pay Year 12 fees for 4 grandchildren.
Three of the four banks had lost more value in 3 months than they paid in both dividends and franking credits: ANZ down 10%, NAB down 13% and WBC down 17%. CBA (down 1%), by far the largest bank by capitalisation, held the Four Bank index up. The 4 other ASX 20 dividend payers either dropped their dividends or franking. The adverse effect of these realignments will be more apparent in our next MW30.
What we’re watching
We are still watching the moves in the 2 and 10 year government bond yields. And we’re keen to see how consumer and business sentiment, under-employment and the next 3 GDP growth figures pan out.
The MW30 has been co-created by @13foot7 and MichaelWestMedia
Parliament of Australia Website. ASX website. Bloomberg LP website. Citibank website. S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Parliament of Australia website. Australian Taxation Office website. Australian Bureau of Statistics website. Fair Work website. Department of Human Services website. Qantas website. Four Sydney and Melbourne boys and girls school websites. Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia website.
Tax-free threshold is calculated after the effects of LITO and LAMITO.
Share prices and bond yields are three-day averages around the date.
4 Bank Index: derived from capitalisation of the four major banks.
A franking credit pension: ASX20 – franking credits derived from last two dividends, percentage franked and share price; average of equally weighted and index weighted notional portfolios. Four banks – derived from average of two notional portfolios. Each portfolio holds $1.6 million (the pension-phase cap).
Females on ASX boards: reported board membership.
School fees: average of four prominent Sydney and Melbourne non-government schools
The Qantas fare is the return fare quoted on 15 December to fly on 15 March 2020.