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POLL-Australian shares to make only modest gains in second-half 2017
June 29, 2017 / 7:24 AM / a month ago

POLL-Australian shares to make only modest gains in second-half 2017

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* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=stock-index-poll Reuters poll data

By Rushil Dutta

June 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares are expected to creep up over the remainder of the year and remain short of the 6,000-point mark, a Reuters poll found, as investors fret over an economy hobbled by massive household debt and stagnant wage growth.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index will rise about 2.5 percent from Wednesday's close of 5,755.7, reaching 5,900 by end-2017, according to the median forecast of 16 strategists surveyed by Reuters.

That forecast is a little weaker than in a March poll, but mid-2018 expectations for the benchmark are unchanged at 6,050. The index is expected to reach 6,117 by end-2018.

Moody's Investors Service downgraded 12 Australian banks last week, citing elevated risks. The Australian financials index is now on track for its first annual loss in six years.

The federal government imposed a levy on Australia's five biggest lenders in its last budget, seeking to arrest a decade-long run of deficits, and sparking intense lobbying against the measure by the major banks.

But further pressure was then heaped on the big banks when one state decided to adopt a levy of its own and another expressed an interest in following suit.

"The intense debate over the bank levy is not surprising given the impact on bank earnings, and the risk of future increases in the levy once in place," Citi analysts said in a note.

Last week Australia's central bank ramped up its rhetoric over the financial stability risks presented by the overheated property market, household debt and record low wage growth.

Some poll respondents said domestic stocks face significant risks from their U.S. peers, which have been on an upward trend because of optimism over U.S. President Donald Trump's economic plans - a phenomenon nicknamed the "Trump bump".

Australian shares have generally been tracking developments in U.S. markets. Some poll respondents cited worries about Trump being unable to deliver on his policies as a likely cause for a 10 percent correction in the market in the next six months.

Half the respondents thought the chance of a correction by year-end was minimal given how well investors had absorbed shocks without panicking, referring to major political events such as Brexit and Trump's election as U.S. President.

"If there were to be a trigger it would likely be a geopolitical event such as military action involving North Korea or a significant terrorist event," said Craig James, chief equities economist at Commonwealth Securities.

For other stories from the Reuters global stock markets poll: Polling by Rushil Dutta and Shashwat Pradhan; Editing by Eric Meijer

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