ACT Business May 2009: Up-tick
06 April 2009
Having touched a new low at the start of March, the heavy equipment sector spent the next four weeks rallying, as new Government measures to bolster economic growth were announced.
Early March saw the announcement of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's new plan to rid banks of their ‘toxic assets'. In an innovative solution, US$ 500 billion of public money will be combined with private investor funds to buy-up the problematic paper that started the credit crunch, and remove it from banks' balance sheets. This should allow them to get back to business as usual.
This was well-received by the markets, as was the early April announcement from the G20 summit in London of a US$ 1 trillion cash injection for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
As a development bank, the funds for the World Bank should act as a further stimulus measure, while raising the IMF's annual budget to US$ 750 billion should give it the capacity to help individual countries with shaky balance sheets and big deficits. Iceland, Ireland and the UK are three names that spring to mind.
These, along with other snippets of good news, such as slightly improved housing starts, helped the markets put on some gains over the course of March and early April.
However, they were coming up from a low base. In the first week of March ACT's Heavy Equipment Index of American cranes and construction equipment hit a new low of 47.08 points. Compared to the position at the start of April 2008, that represented a fall of almost 75 per cent.
The rally helped our index to rebound above the 70-point level by the start of April, but even with this climb it was down more than 60 per cent on the position a year ago.
The rally was also felt on the wider markets, with the Dow closing-out March at 7609 points, having hit a low for this economic cycle of 6440 points only ten trading days or so previously.
It would not be a particularly impressive performance at any other time, but the three-winning streak for the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 that followed the bank bailout package was the longest running upswing the indexes have seen for 12 months.
A rally is not the same as a recovery, and after falling for most of 2009, shares were bound to bounce at some point. Good news is still good news, but it would be premature to herald the March rebound as the end of the bad times for the markets.
It will take a more consistent and prolonged run of good news on the economy for shares to climb and retain gains.