ASX 200 (XJO) morning report – MQG & NWS shares in focus

The S&P/ASX 200 (INDEXASX: XJO) is set to open higher when the market opens this morning according to the latest SPI futures. Here’s what ASX investors need to know as we head into a new week.

ASX share market recap

The week finished where it began, the ASX 200 adding 0.8% taking the gain to 4.4% with every sector finishing the week higher. The key drivers were real estate (+8.3%) and consumer discretionary (+6.8%) businesses as a combination of loosening border restrictions and the RBA’s interest rate decision was greeted positively.

Friday saw investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX: MQG) delivers its HY21 earnings result, with profit falling 32% for the first half to $985 million. It has been a solid year in difficult conditions. The annuity-style asset management and banking businesses saw revenue slip just 7% to $1.6 billion, whilst the market-facing capital raising business fell 42% to $672 million. As has been the case across the sector, impairments of $447 million on Macquarie’s loan books were the biggest detractor.

In my view, the US election result bodes well for Macquarie, with increasing likelihood of an infrastructure deal coming to fruition, along with a renewed focus on renewable energy sources, where Macquarie is a specialist. Management declared a $1.35 dividend with shares finishing 2.3% higher.

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US markets soar, News Corp digital pivot paying off

The US markets finished flat on Friday, but it was a week for the ages, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finishing 7.3% and 9.0% higher, respectively, as the ‘risk on’ mood returned in earnest. This was the strongest week since April and was once again driven by the big technology names.

The market was also buoyed by a fall in the US unemployment rate to just 6.9%, far better than the 7.7% predicted, suggesting the economy is returning to normal despite record COVID cases.

News Corporation (ASX: NWS) led the US and Australian markets for the day, finishing 13.7% higher. The driver was evidence that its digital transformation was beginning to pay off. Management reported just a 10% drop in revenue, with traditional media losses offset by 45% growth in its digital real estate division, 47% growth in the Dow Jones division, which owns Barron’s and the WSJ, and publishing revenue moving 13% higher.

My key takeaways from the week

The saying goes that forecasts tell us more about the forecaster than the future, and this week couldn’t have better confirmed that statement. Headlines of a Democrat ‘Blue Wave’ and predictions of huge margins against the Republicans were once again found wanting.

My first takeaway from the week is that both the polling and economist professions may need to rethink their approach, with 2020 seeing consistent misjudgements in bold forecasts.

This leads to my second takeaway, being the importance of never basing investment decisions solely on ‘expected events’, with those who sold out of markets due to the threat of an uncertain election once again missing out on significant returns. 2020 has once again shown us that there is always a reason to sell, but it typically isn’t the best decision.

Finally, it’s the growing threat of China for the Australian economy. The week saw as many as seven new export commodities receiving a soft ban, with China ramping up the economic pressure at a difficult time for the immigration driven Australian economy.

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Disclosure: At the time of publishing, the author of this article does not have a financial or commercial interest in any of the companies mentioned.

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