Fiscal cliff keeps the local market flat
- SPI futures down 13 points to 4471.
- Australian dollar dips to $US1.0397
- Fiscal cliff keeps ASX flat
- US investors disappointed with leaders
- European shares recover early losses after US data
- Oil higher on strong US consumer sentiment
- Gold buoyed to three-week high by Obama re-election
- What is the fiscal cliff?
THE sharemarket has finished relatively flat for the week as investors remain cautious over the looming US fiscal cliff and the change of leadership in China.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished just 1.9 points higher for the week at 4462.
Health enjoyed a nice run, adding 2.2 per cent, telecoms and consumer staples rose 0.5 per cent each and materials gained 0.3 per cent. Financials and energy both finished lower for the week, falling 0.1 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.
The ASX 200 lost 21.8 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4462 on Friday, halving its early losses.
Despite a spike in the market late on Wednesday after the US presidential election, investors forfeited most of those gains as the realisation that the looming problem of the fiscal cliff is far from solved.
"Post US election, everyone got to prophesying what is going to happen with the fiscal cliff; our assumption has been that most of the shock will be avoided," said JPMorgan economist Ben Jarman.
"We can't avoid it completely but it looks like fiscal policy will drag around 2 per cent off US growth from the start of next year."
The result of the US election helped the dollar surge during the week, jumping almost a full cent.
Mr Jarman said the re-election of Barack Obama meant that quantitative easing would be more likely to continue. This weakened the US dollar against most major currencies and the Australia dollar was no exception.
The dollar jumped from a low of US103.32¢ on Monday to finish at US104.22¢ in late trading on Friday.
Mr Jarman said he expected the dollar to remain between US104¢ and US106¢ for the next year or so.
Markets are also waiting on the transition of power within the Chinese Communist Party.
"If they're of a mind to focus on this shift in the pattern of growth towards consumption and away from things like infrastructure, that will have ramifications for Chinese growth, for global commodities markets and therefore for the Australian economy and the Aussie dollar," Mr Jarman said.
This wait-and-see approach was also taken by the Reserve Bank, which kept the official cash rate on hold at 3.25 per cent on Tuesday.
"If you characterise the October rate cut as them being a little bit ahead of the curve and the news having then got a little better again, that was the clincher for leaving rates on hold," he said.
"The triggers for further easing are going to be further data weakness. We think the data has further to fall and the case will become clearer as we move into next year," he said.
On the sharemarket on Friday, the big miners were down. Rio Tinto lost 1.1 per cent to $58.69 and BHP fell 0.6 per cent to $34.46. Fortescue lost 0.3 per cent to $3.93.
Among the banks, NAB and Westpac, trading ex-dividend, fell 4.2 per cent to $23.81 and 2.9 per cent to $25.17, respectively.