RBA watch: the RBA board will sit on its hands today and leave it to the post-meeting statement to explain its stance on interest rates. Then we get the meeting’s minutes on June 14, but before then governor Glenn Stevens travels to Castle Hill in Sydney’s North West for a speech on June 9. It’s these speeches to unprepossessing groups (Stevens has spoken in Cairns and Toowoomba) that he quite often uses to make a major point about current RBA policy. And sometimes he is backed by another senior RBA official. This month it’s deputy governor Ric Battellino, who is speaking to a far more orthodox finance industry conference on June 15. The topics for both speeches haven’t been listed yet by the RBA.

Central bank watch: the Canadian central bank meets tomorrow night and is tipped to raise rates by 0.25% to just 0.50%. And on Friday night, our time, the US releases the May employment data, with 500,000 new jobs tipped. The central banks of South Korea and Indonesia also meet this week, but are thought likely to keep rates on hold. Apart from Canada, Europe has made central banks rate shy (and it wouldn’t surprise if Canada pulled back at the last minute as well).

Canada watch: but a rate rise is quite on the cards in Canada. Thanks to strong consumer spending and exports, the Canadian economy experienced its strongest growth for more than a decade in the March quarter. GDP was up 1.5% quarter-on-quarter, with the December three months, and an annual 6.1%, compared with the revised downwards 4.9% (from 5%) in the December quarter. Thank strong exports to Asia and now to the US car industry, plus solid housing demand because of an expiring tax credit in February, for driving growth.

Awful May I: the share market in Australia fell 7.8% in May, the worst May for 26 years. But the market sub-index on the local market covering miners sunk 6%, so in funds management terms, that’s outperformance. So the mining resource tax controversy helped them outperform the broader market, instead of ruining it for investors, along with that capital strike? And what about those fears of the Chinese economy cooling,  and Europe? The industrials were off more than 11%, financials (mostly banks) off 10%. Yes, the miners outperformed the rest of the market in May, so those shareholders who held on in May, actually did better than the smarties who sold after reading all the rubbish. BHP shares fell 6% over the month, Rio Tinto, 7%, so they both outperformed as well. Don’t tell the miners or Tony or Joe or Andrew or their excitable supporters in the media that Westpac shares lost 15% of their value and the Commonwealth and NAB 12%. It might cause them to have a sulk.

Awful May II: while the proposed tax did play a part, it was small. Take BHP, a very vocal critic of the idea, but its share price was hammered by concerns about the Chinese economy (BHP does 20% of its entire business there), the oil price (down 14% in May) and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico where BHP has the majority of its most productive oil fields. Rio is even more exposed to China than BHP because it has a much narrower group of businesses, being heavily dependant on China and the iron and steel industry. If the proposed resource tax was such a concern for investors, you would have expected the share prices of both resource giants to have fallen further than the overall market, especially BHP given the other concerns as well.

Awful May III: in the UK, the market was down 6.5% and the same amount in Hong Kong. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 12% and China’s Shanghai market fell 2.4% on Monday, to end May down 9.7% and nearly 21% since the start of this year. For May, the Dow lost 7.9%, its worst month since February 2009, when it fell 11.7%, and worst May since 1940, when it plunged 21.7%. The Nasdaq lost 8.3%, its worst month since November 2008, when it dropped 10.8%, and its worst May since 2000, when it lost 11.9% in the tech and net wreck. The S&P 500 lost 8.2%, its worst month since February 2009, when it shed 11% loss, and its worst May since 1962, when the drop was 8.6%. Oil lost 14%. Gold was up 3% after a 6% rise in April.

Japan watch: Japan’s industrial output rose 1.3% in April from March, which was OK, but nowhere near the exuberant 2.5% estimate from market forecasters. Shipments gained 1.6% from March, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. Inventories were up 0.3% and April production was up 25.9% from the previous April. Forward estimates were a bit more pessimistic with companies telling the ministry they expect their orders to rise by 0.4% in May and 0.3% in June. South Korea’s output jumped 19.9% in the year to April.

India watch: Indian growth jumped to an annual 8.6% in the March quarter, which wrapped up the country’s 2009-10 financial year. That left growth for the 12 months at 7.4%, slightly faster than forecasts of 7.2%. India joined China at the top of the growth tree (China’s first-quarter growth was 11.9%). But Indian wholesale inflation (the accepted main measure) is running at an annual rate of 9.6%, against China’s 2.8%. Indian interest rates have been lifted twice this year so far. Now for the monsoon. Good rains will cut food costs and drop inflation, a second weak monsoon will see price pressures intensify and and rates rise further.

Takeover watch: In yesterday’s Independent, experts report approving the demerger of DuluxGroup from Orica. Grant Samuel (the Independent expert) virtually put DuluxGroup on the market: “In addition to preserving share holders’ opportunity to share in the upside potential of both Orica and DuluxGroup, the demerger is likely to improve shareholders’ prospects of realising full underlying value through a takeover of either of the demerged entities. This will be particularly relevant in the case of DuluxGroup, which, prior to the Demerger, is a relatively small part of a larger mining services group. Following the Demerger, DuluxGroup will have a significantly smaller market capitalisation than Orica and will have a relatively open share register. There will be no significant impediments to a takeover or other corporate activity involving DuluxGroup.” Apply here, says Samuel; takeover prospect, adviser free?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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