July 2020 Insights

July is here along with the winter chill. But July also signals the start of a new financial year and chances are most Australians are happy to say goodbye to the last one. This year more than ever it’s a great time to plan your finances for the year ahead, to rebuild or make the most of savings you have made during months of social isolation.

With an extraordinary financial year behind us, it’s a good time to take stock. After 28 years Australia’s record economic expansion ended due to the COVID shutdowns. Our economy contracted by 0.3% in the March quarter and looks set to contract 8% in the June quarter, confirmation that we are officially in recession. The Budget deficit for the 12 months to May was a record $65.5 billion or 3.3% of GDP, $61 billion higher than predicted just last December. Unemployment rose to 7.1% in May, the highest since 2001, with another 1.6 million Australians on JobKeeper payments.

Yet Australia is weathering the COVID storm better than most nations, with signs of building business and consumer confidence. Retail sales rose a record 16.3% in May, after a record 17.7% fall in April, while new vehicle sales fell 35% in the year to May. The ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence index is up 42% on its record lows in March, while the NAB business confidence index rebounded to -20 points in May, up from a record low of -65 points in April.

Financial markets finished the financial year mixed, but in better shape than many feared. In the year to June, US shares rose 4.6% while Australian shares trimmed their losses to 10.8% after a partial rebound in the last quarter. Falling global demand hit crude oil prices (down 33%) and iron ore (down 14%). The Aussie dollar firmed 3.7% in June to finish the year at US69c as a mark of Australia’s sure handling of the COVID crisis.

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