License article


Before the sharemarket opens each day, morning news presenters invariably tell us how Wall Street fared overnight and what this means for local stocks. But how much does our sharemarket really follow the US?

If the last few tumultuous years have taught us anything, it's that Australian companies are much more reliant on Asia than the Americans.

That doesn't mean Wall Street is irrelevant - far from it. The US sharemarket is still home to many trillions in global capital and a powerful gauge of global confidence. But as the graph shows, our market doesn't always follow in Wall Street's footsteps.

The index of the biggest 200 companies on our sharemarket, the S&P/ASX 200, had fallen by about 10 per cent in the past year at the time of writing. America's S&P 500, by contrast, was up 2.5 per cent. What's going on?

The third line on the graph - which shows a 19 per cent fall in China's main market in Shanghai - is a big part of any explanation.

Even though there is often a knee-jerk response to what happened in Wall Street, Australia's market actually has some very different traits to the US.


In particular, our bourse is dominated by miners (which make up about 35 per cent of the bourse, compared with 15 per cent in the US) and financial stocks (which account for 40 per cent of the index here, roughly double their importance on Wall Street).

A much bigger share of the US market is made up by technology stocks, which account for nearly 20 per cent of its market, and less than 5 per cent here.

Our mining-heavy bourse means resource-hungry China has a disproportionate influence on the profitability of our companies.

So when China gets the wobbles, the Australian market feels the effects.

This is exactly what's happened over the past year. Fears of slowing in China have dragged Australians resources stocks down by 20 per cent - moving almost in lockstep with Shanghai's market.

The big banks are also weighing down the bourse, as households are reluctant about taking on more debt.

In the short term, nothing rattles the nerves of global investors like a plunge on Wall Street.

Over a longer horizon, however, the fortunes of our biggest companies are far more tied to what is happening in Asia.