By Greg Peel
The Dow closed up 16 points or 0.1% while the S&P gained 0.2% to 1638 and the Nasdaq added 0.7%.
Arguably the most important GDP data point for RBA policy setting is the quarterly private capex report, and specifically the capex intentions survey. Yesterday's June quarter capex result surprised with a 4% gain when economists expected flat growth. The growth was all about resource sector expenditure, and despite the increase ANZ economists maintain that the peak in resource capex is "likely to have passed". Year on year capex is down 2.3%.
On the flipside, 4% growth in 2013-14 capex intentions was a disappointing result. "The ongoing weakness in non-mining firms' investment intentions," notes ANZ, "suggests that lower interest rates have yet to gain traction in this sector, and that the rebalancing of growth from the mining to the non-mining sectors is not occurring quickly." ANZ believes the RBA would have been "disappointed" by this result, and maintains a view that another rate cut will be forthcoming by year-end.
Was this the impetus for a recovery on Bridge Street yesterday? Despite a better lead from Wall Street on Wednesday night, the ASX 200 looked soggy in the morning before rallying ahead during the afternoon.
Two developments were influential on Wall Street last night. The first was a non-development, being a lack of any immediate action in Syria. Russia and China remain opposed to any retaliation, while the UK parliament is continuing to debate on a response and will continue to do so early next week, given no clear agreement so far. An Arab League meeting is to be held on the weekend, and it is likely Washington is hoping a diplomatic outcome of some sort can be achieved, assuming Assad is fearful of Allied strikes.
Nothing is clear, but what was clear to Wall Street last night was that a lack of immediate action implied no action may yet be the outcome. Or at the very least a lack of action gave Wall Street an excuse not to think about Syria.
Wall Street did think about the second development, and that was the release of the first revision of US June quarter GDP. It came in at 2.5% growth, well above the initial estimate of 1.7% and ahead of consensus forecasts of 2.3%. The "revision" does not imply the bean-counters got it very wrong the first time. The first estimate takes April numbers and extrapolates them across three months, this second revision then adds in and adjusts for May numbers, and the "final" revision next month will incorporate June. While "final", the result can again be revised when the September quarter GDP is released, and sometimes quite considerably.
But Wall Street liked it. Traders also liked another fall in the weekly new jobless claims number. Tapering? Who cares? The indices opened strongly and before midday the Dow was up 92 points. Volumes were yet again insignificant. Monday is the Memorial Day holiday in the US which signifies the end of the summer break. It is not unusual for traders to square up ahead of any long weekend, even on the Thursday, but given the long weekend might feature pictures of a new war in the Middle East it seems more imperative not to get caught with the wrong position.
Traders were expressing the same view on the LME, although the UK is open for business on Monday. The US GDP result sent the US dollar up 0.7% to 81.98 on its index and base metal positions were squared up, resulting in across the board falls of around 1%.
The dollar bounce and lack of Syrian action allowed the oils to pull back after two sessions of sharp gains, with Brent down US$1.57 to US$114.42/bbl and West Texas down US$2.09 to US$108.01/bbl.
Gold also fell back, by US$9.10 to US$1408.30/oz, and the US ten-year bond yield surprised with a 3bps fall to 2.75%. The strong GDP should have, in theory, pushed yields higher. But again, what might happen over the weekend? The Aussie is off slightly to US$0.8931.
Spot iron ore fell US20c to US$138.30/t.
The SPI Overnight fell 10 points or 0.2%.
Japan will provide a monthly data dump today, including the all-important CPI, while India will release its June quarter GDP. That may not be pretty. China will post its official August manufacturing PMI on Sunday.
Data in the US tonight include personal income and spending and consumer sentiment. The data point in Australia today is July private sector credit, and it is unofficially the last day of the result season. Woohoo! Officially there are a lot more reports to flow next week but mostly from small caps, as well as a few hundred penny dreadful miners.
Today's result highlights include Harvey Norman ((HVN)) and Virgin Australia ((VAH)).