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Monday 21 December 2020

Election year rolling around again?

2020 draws to a close

Despite a great deal of uncertainty in 2020, Australia has emerged well to date from the virus disruption. 

Total employment is now but a strong print or two away from hitting 13 million and recapturing record highs. 

The Australian dollar has soared from a low of close to 57 US cents to 76 US cents, which unfortunately won't help the economic adjustment in 2021. 

In domestic stock markets, the ASX 200 initially increased this year from around 7,000 to January to a heady high of above 7,150, and despite a dramatic crash to around 4,550 in March looks set to close the year only modestly lower in the 6,600s.

Valuations remain relatively high in some sectors, but Australia may have an ace up its sleeve if commodity price strength continues, driven forward by China's recovery. 

The iron ore spot price ballooned to yet another record high for 62% Fe, at $164.39, to be a rip-snorting 329 per cent higher than the lows of 5-year ago.

China's reluctance to import Australian coal may prove to offset this boost to some degree. 

In property, solid auction volumes ran through all the way until this weekend, yet still finished with strong preliminary clearance rates in the mid-70s in Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney has reported a cluster of virus cases, though zero to date have been recorded as ICU or ventilator cases, and by the time auction markets reopen in earnest around Australia Day weekend this spike appears more likely than not to be under control. 

Housing prices will end the year a bit higher than they were a year earlier, except in Melbourne which bore the brunt of the effective lockdowns and where prices are 1 per cent lower. 

The momentum is all positive now, though, as mortgage rates have continued to grind lower. 

By the end of last month Prime Minister Morrison was in a remarkably strong position (a massive 32 points ahead on Newspoll's preferred PM metric), to the extent that it's possible that the next Federal election might be contemplated any time from August. 

It doesn't seem to be all that long since Shorten's lack of personal popularity couldn't drag Labor over the line in 2019, in spite of opinion polls consistently inferring a two-party preferred lead, all the way through to the exit polls. 

Shorten's expected win was forecast to topple property markets, but prices are 13 per cent higher in Sydney since that time, while in Melbourne housing prices are 8 per cent higher. 

You can download the consumer version of our Risks & Opportunities report here, including the capital city housing market forecasts for 2020.