This week in finance: Amazon storms grocery aisles



June 18, 2017 06:40:57

It is difficult to draw too many conclusions from a “nothing” sort of end of the week on global markets, except to say everyone — bar its shareholders — is scared of the retail giant Amazon.

Key points:

  • ASX set to open higher despite lacklustre lead from Wall Street
  • Amazon makes aggressive push into fresh food
  • EOFY buying has helped ASX outperform most global markets

The massive online retailer’s sudden arrival in “bricks-and-mortar” consumerism on Friday crushed other retailers’ share prices and kept a lid on the major US indices.

That didn’t worry traders in ASX futures who placed a bet on the local market continuing last week’s momentum.

It had a sneaky week gaining 1.7 per cent without much fanfare.

Markets on Friday’s close:

  • ASX SPI 200 futures +0.2pc at 5,723
  • AUD: 76.16 US cents, 68.00 euro cents, 59.58 British pence, 84.43 Japanese yen, $NZ1.05
  • US: Dow Jones +0.1pc at 21,384, S&P500 flat at 2,433 NASDAQ -0.3pc at 5,681
  • Europe: FTSE +0.6pc at 7,464 DAX +0.5pc at 12,753 Eurostoxx50 +0.5pc at 3,544
  • Commodities: Brent oil +0.3pc at $US47.27/barrel, Gold flat at $US1,253/ounce, Iron ore +0.3pc at $US54.70/tonne

The ASX was certainly an outlier on global equity markets, with Wall Street flat over the week — weighed down by the tech bingle — while the UK fell 1 per cent, Europe was not much better and China was down 1.6 per cent.

AMP’s Shane Oliver was not surprised, saying the ASX was about due for a bounce having fallen 5 per cent from its highs in early May.

“Fund flows into superannuation, ahead of a June 30 deadline for some members, are likely providing a strong source of demand which is likely to intensify into the month’s end,” Dr Oliver said.

Amazon continues to steamroller retailers

The big news, on an otherwise quiet Friday, was Amazon shelling out $US13.7 billion ($18 billion) for the up-market Whole Foods grocery chain in the US.

The deal will give Amazon hundreds of new stores and instant access to the lucrative fresh food and grocery market.

Amazon has eyed the space for a decade or so, experimenting with its own range. This kicks the retail steamroller into grocery overdrive.

A transaction of this size would normally put a rocket under the share prices of others in the sector, with investors embracing “upside risk” and looking for the next big deal.

But Amazon is far from a normal competitor. Much of the selling had the appearance of resignation, with investors looking for growth opportunities elsewhere.

Collectively, other listed US retailers lost $US32 billion in value on the news, according to Bloomberg’s analysis.

Wall Mart and Costco fell 7 per cent, Kroger around double that. Retailers like Nike and Target were whacked as well.

“When a disruptive technology delivers the same thing at a lower cost, that’s going to create challenges where the number of winners is small and the losers broader,” Jason Benowitz, a fund manager at Roosevelt Investment Group told Bloomberg.

There is a lesson here for Australian retailers.

If the big supermarkets were unsure whether Amazon would come crashing into their cherished fresh food space, the Whole Foods purchase can leave them in little doubt a massive new competitor is on its way.

And they thought Aldi was a tough competitor.

All quiet on the data front

There is nothing much to move the economic dials on the Australian data front this week.

The releases, while worthy, are pretty much second tier stuff.

RBA Governor, Philip Lowe, is a panellist in a wide ranging discussion at the ANU on Monday and it might be worth a listen.

A broad range of topics are on the agenda; trends in economic growth, Asian trade, global fears, monetary and fiscal policy constraints.

Then there is the release of the June RBA board meeting minutes on Tuesday. In short, nothing much happened at the June meeting.

It might be best to skip through to Wednesday and beyond, although that is looking even more barren.

US bank stress tests and Brexit talks are key risks

Things overseas are marginally more lively.

The Federal Reserve’s release of it latest bank stress test on Thursday will be interesting.

Failures are not expected, but you never know in these debt fuelled times.

In Europe, Brexit negotiations are due to start on Monday.

The progress is not expected to be electric, given the UK now seems somewhat uncertain about how to proceed.

China is quiet, apart from house price data on Monday.

Across the ditch, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand meets on Thursday, but it too is likely to be a bit of a fizzer.


Date Event Forecast



RBA talk Governor Philip Lowe speaks at an ANU forum in Canberra
Vehicle sale May: motoring along at around 100K new cars a month, up 6pc



RBA minutes No surprises expected out of another “on hold” decision



House price Q1: ABS survey and slightly dated. While growth slowing, still likely to be up almost 10 pc YoY
Skilled vacancies May: A more detailed look at the jobs market and where the jobs are being created and lost






Date Event Forecast



CH: Property Prices Some of the gains in major cities make Australia’s property market look recessionary



EU: Current account April: Solid surplus
US: Current account Q1: Solid deficit
CH: Financial reform summit Key officials discussing financial and banking reforms at a two-day meeting in Shanghai



US: Existing home sales May: Recent housing data has been a bit soft, this should be steady



NZ: RBNZ rates decision Another hold at 1.75pc
US: House price index April: No bubble here, but solid gains
US: Bank stress test The Fed releases part 1 of its annual stress test. Any fails would be a worry



EU: Manufacturing PMI June: Activity has been expanding for some time
US: Manufacturing PMI June: Also expanding, but not as rapidly as Europe
US: New home sales May: May have ticked up a bit. However there are some concerns in the sector









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