St George Economics economy and finance update

Share Markets:

WHILE Australian and European markets were closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday, US markets were open last night.

The Dow edged lower last night on weaker than expected news on US manufacturing (see below).

Compared to its close on Friday morning Australian time, the Dow was essential flat having risen a touch on Thursday and fallen marginally on Monday. European markets were weaker on Thursday night in the wake of uncertainty over the fallout from Cyprus.


In thin markets, US 10 year government bond yields edged lower to 1.83%. This is well down on the 2.06% seen in mid-March. Risk aversion over Europe has been the driving factor.

Markets have been closed in Europe over Easter with little change seen on Thursday night.

Foreign Exchange:

The AUD was little changed over the long weekend opening against the USD at close to levels seen at the close on Thursday. The AUD is a touch softer against the yen and the NZD.


Commodity prices were weaker overnight as US manufacturing figures disappointed the market. (see below).  Copper is lower and oil moved down marginally. Gold is once again below US$1600 but did lift overnight on European uncertainty.


The St.George-Melbourne Institute index of household financial conditions lifted 2.5% in the March quarter as a greater number of Australians were able to save.

The index is up 4.3% over the year reflecting lower mortgage repayments, modestly higher incomes and in some cases, new employment. The index stands at 124.4 with any result over 100 indicating that more people are managing to save rather than running down their savings.

Today we expect no change in the RBA cash rate following the RBA's board meeting. The outcome will be released at 2.30 pm.


German retail sales rose 0.4% in February on top of a 3.0% surge in January. Despite the first back to back monthly gains in a year, sales are still down 2.2% over the year.

Meanwhile, unemployment rose 13k in March, its largest rise since October, reversing January's 13k fall (February was flat), further evidence of the slump in economic activity since the last quarter of 2012. The jobless rate was steady at 6.9% for the sixth month running.

United Kingdom:

UK consumer confidence was steady at -26 in March according to US research house GfK. Meanwhile the Nationwide reported house prices up 0.8% in the year to March, their fastest pace of gain since early last year.

United States:

The Institute of Supply Management's (ISM) index of manufacturing activity declined from 54.2 to 51.3 in February. While the result still indicates growth in the sector, it was less than market expectations. Earlier in the week the Chicago region's purchasing managers index (PMI) had also declined.

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