The Yield Curve: What it is & Why it Matters

The Yield Curve: What it is & Why it Matters

The yield curve is watched closely by economists and financial practitioners for its wide implications, from the money markets, capital markets to the broad economy as a whole. We'll walk you through what the yield curve is, how to analyse it, and show historical examples of how the yield curve changes throughout the business cycle. As well as current yield curves in different countries around the world. 

Click here to download the SMIF Yield Curve Report


To trade or fade… Analysis into the Trump administration’s tariffs

To trade or fade… Analysis into the Trump administration’s tariffs

Behind the tariffs

On Thursday the 1st of March, U.S. President Donald Trump shocked the world by announcing an intention to impose import tariffs on Steel and Aluminium (STAL). The proposed tariff rates, 25% and 10% respectively, are the result of a report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on the 16th of February. The report concluded that current steel and aluminium imports “threaten to impair the national security” in their current state of affairs.

The key finding of the report pertaining to a national security threat is the domestic production of steel being necessary for “defense requirements and critical infrastructure”. This result led to the recommendation of a minimum 24% global tariff being applied to steel imports, with 12 countries having a tariff rate of at least 53%, including China and Russia.


Similar to the findings relating to the steel industry, the aluminium industry decline is considered to be another threat to national security, and is blamed on “foreign government subsidies”. A minimum tariff of 7.7% was recommended by the report, with a 23.6% rate on China, Russia, Hong Kong, Venezuela and Vietnam.


A threat to national security


The decline of the U.S. STAL  industries has been considered a national threat under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. National security is considered “at risk” due to the inability of the domestic industries to produce sufficient quantities of respective commodities. In turn, they provide the Defense industry with a reliable stream of the materials needed for construction and manufacturing.


A greater risk to U.S. national security are the long term economic effects that the tariffs are going to have. The medium-term effects of some companies, such as the U.S. Steel Corporation, promising to recommence operations will be dampened over the long run without appropriate policy management. Protectionist trade measures may increase the amount of production in targeted industries, but this will be to the detriment of those purchasing the materials produced in the form of higher costs passed on. Over the course of modern history, infant industries protected from foreign competition have often failed to innovate and grow enough to sustain operations in a competitive market. They lack the incentive to perform since they hold greater market power as protected oligopolies.


Industries lacking innovation and growth lead to upward pressure on prices, the simple solution would be to subsidise the purchase of domestic steel and aluminium. This model, the Import-Substitution model, was employed by many South-East Asian countries prior to the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990’s. Without appropriate policy incentivising a robust and sustainable business model, the U.S. steel and aluminium industries will repeat mistakes of the past.


Impact on Australia


Trump confirmed Australia would be exempt from these tariffs in a March 10 press conference, stating “great flexibility and cooperation will be provided to those countries that are really friends of ours”.  Although Australia remains immune from the protectionist policies put in place by Trump, it is the retaliation of other countries which has the potential to have an impact on Australian trade.


Uncertainty surrounding the ultimate outcome of a global response to the tariffs will impact stock markets around the world. The ASX is highly correlated to the NASDAQ and DJI, at around 85% and 87% respectively on a month-to-month basis and as such the Australian stock market will follow trends of the U.S.. Given that protectionist policies will strengthen the U.S. economy, the Australian economy is likely to strengthen as well. However, amid growth in the strength of the U.S. economy, global growth is also likely to fall as exporters of STAL products are affected. The overall effect on the Australian economy can’t yet accurately be predicted.


In the event of a trade war being waged, Australia could benefit handsomely at the expense of a great many others. Foreign policy should discourage a trade war due to the larger ramifications. However if it is unavoidable, then Australia could become the trade hub to link U.S. markets to countries such as China facing the tariffs. Yet doing so may risk the strong relationship between Australia and the U.S. as it would be seen as undermining the Trump administration's attempts to strengthen domestic STAL producers. In such an unpredictable global political realm, Australia needs to be cautious and remain impartial so as not to antagonise the economic powerhouses of the world, given our economic ties to them.


Global trade war or empty threats


The European Commission (E.C.) announced it would propose “ firm and commensurate” counter measures within days, in response to the United States’ decision which it labelled as a “blatant intervention to protect the US industry”. In a statement, the E.C. promised to “not sit idly while the European steel industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk”. The full extent of any retaliatory policies to be put in place by the E.C. remains to be seen, but this does set an example for surrounding nations to follow suit. There has been no update from the E.C. to date on any counter-measures that may be imposed.


The risk of a global trade war heightened when China’s foreign minister Wang Yi  guaranteed a “necessary response to counterbalance ” the recent punitive tariffs put in place by America. Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies have risen since Trump took office in 2017, and although China only accounts for a small fraction of U.S. steel imports, its industrial expansion has helped produce a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.


In light of the latest announcement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, counter tariffs worth $3b will be “imposed to offset its loss incurred by the U.S.’s decision”. Spokesman, Hua ChunYing, of the Ministry also stated that “we want no trade war with anyone, but if our hands are forced, we will not quail nor recoil from it”. This gives the impression that despite some statements suggesting that China will not engage in a trade war, there is still an impending threat.

National Account Overview - December Quarter 2017

National Account Overview - December Quarter 2017

The Australian economy grew by 0.4% in the December quarter and by 2.4% year-on-year. This was below market expectations of 0.7% and 2.9% quarterly and annualised respectively. Growth slowed in comparison to September’s 2.8%. 

Household expenditure drove growth in the economy during the December quarter, increasing from 0.5% to 1%. This was driven by holiday shopping and all components rose except for food and utilities. Trade was the largest drag on growth, in part from a stronger Aussie dollar. The major declines in exports were in rural goods, transport equipment and travel services.

Private investment remained subdued, detracting 0.3% off growth for the quarter, mainly from a decrease in private dwellings and a sharp decrease in new engineering construction. In addition, public investment increased 2.9% for the quarter driven by state and local governments.

Wages ticked up to grow at 1.1%, contributing to 4.8% increase for the year, the strongest since June 2012. The increase in wages is consistent with stronger employment data reported in the labour force. The sector with the largest wage growth was construction at 8%.

Western Australia and the Northern Territory’s GDP contracted for the quarter at -0.2% and -7.6% respectively. The fastest growing state was the ACT at 1.6%.

NEWS UPDATE: RBA Decision 6th March

NEWS UPDATE: RBA Decision 6th March

This month, March 2018, the RBA decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50%, continuing the streak of a record low cash rate set in August 2016. This was largely in line with market expectations, with surveys showing only 6.1% of brokers expected a change.

Low interest rates would, of course, appear to be in order, with wage growth at record low rates, making the outlook for household consumption uncertain. Despite slowing in the housing market over east, debt levels continue to rise, and market volatility has increased since last year. 

However, in the RBA’s press release, Dr Phillip Lowe also notes several positive characteristics of the global and domestic economy. Growth in international trade, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region has supported growth rates in surrounding Asian economies, with China continuing to grow solidly. Globally, inflation has remained low, but may soon be due to increase with rising commodity prices and tightening labour markets.  Domestically, Australian growth rates are forecasted to increase over 2018, fuelled by business and government investment, while employment has also grown over the past year. Conversely, inflation has remained low, but the RBA forecasts that this will also enter the target range (2-3%) in the year of 2018.

Corporate Finance and Golden Theatrics Collide: Novo Resources

At 11:15am last Monday (25th of September) in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Quinton Hennigh, President and Chairman of Novo Resources Corp (TSX-V:NVO), was on stage at the Denver Gold Forum. There was no bland slide deck in sight. Instead, with his opening remarks to a room full of the biggest players in the gold industry, he quipped, “You get to witness, first hand, the discovery of a gold deposit today”.


What followed was surely one of the most brilliant, most Australian, and most effective corporate presentations in recent times. Hennigh decided to live stream from the Pilbara, where at 1:15am local time, Novo’s team of geologists spent just a few astounding minutes in the dirt during early stage exploration of their Purdy’s Reward project.

Should you be concerned about your super?

Superannuation is generally not a thing that’s discussed by university students as we are usually in the throes of self-induced debt, caused by an excessive consumption of food, alcohol and shopping. However, it is very important to have a superannuation account set up, so that future you has a safety net to fall back onto; especially once you take into consideration the compounding effect of the funds. 


There are some pretty devastating facts about the environmental impact the human race has had in on the planet in the past hundred or so years, and if your Facebook feed is anything like mine, those clickbait links serve as a constant reminder about it. There is only so much an individual can do by putting our plastic bottles in the recycling bin but Green Bonds could be a way to do that little bit more while earning a bit more on the side.