Reading the recent business headlines, confidence surveys and economic strategy reports regarding the market volatility in Greece and the US, it is apparent that we are all concerned about things continuing to head downhill. This market volatility, including the insolvency issues in Greece and high unemployment rates in the US, will continue as governments reluctantly accept this outcome and in the aftermath global economic growth (and consequently investment returns) will remain below average for years to come. However, there are still some positive areas to be encouraged by, amongst the long list of worrisome points.
1. Share valuations are reasonable. The price-to-earnings ratios in New Zealand, Australia and the US indicate good value for investors. The NZ market is currently trading at an average PE ratio of 13.5 (slightly less than its long-term average of 13.7) and the AU market is at 11.7 (some way below its long-term average of 14.3). The US market PE is currently 12.2, not quite as cheap as the lows reached in the financial crisis, but also much lower than the highs of over 16 that were reached in 2007.
2. Dividend Yields Above Long-Term Average Dividend yields are (in a lot of cases) higher than those available in term deposits and fixed interest may provide some share price support as income-seeking investors have limited choice. NZ Shares & Property Trusts generating an annual dividend yield of 7% AU Shares yielding around 5% are achievable US Share yield on 10yr treasury bonds being outpaced by share markets average dividend yield (rare occurrence).
3. Interest Rates Likely To Remain Low For some time Official Cash Rate expectations have taken a turn from the expectation that they would be raised by 0.5%, with local interest rates on hold for now and any move in the AU rates likely to be down rather than up. The vast majority of us are sitting on floating mortgage rates keeping costs low for borrowers, assisting consumer and business sentiment and also helping yield the gap between shares and other forms of investment.
4. Oil Prices Have Fallen From Their High Oil is a key component for most sectors of industry, and oil prices have a large impact on consumer confidence. The West Texas oil is 25% lower than its May high and Brent crude is 12% off its highs.
5. Corporate balance sheets are much stronger than they were in 2008. The corporate world is on a much more secure footing than it has been in the past. Average debt levels in Australia are now at 27% (compared with the long term average of 50%). Corporate debt levels in New Zealand and the US have fallen by a similar amount.