Insight

Direct economic links between Europe and Australia are minor, so the latest turmoil in the eurozone should have less impact on our sharemarket, right? Wrong.

Direct economic links between Europe and Australia are minor, so the latest turmoil in the eurozone should have less impact on our sharemarket, right? Wrong.

In fact, Australia's market has been hit even harder than some that are much closer to the chaos.

For instance, at the time of writing, the fall in the ASX 200 in the previous month was worse than the falls in losses in Britain and the US.

Believe it or not, the ASX had also lost more in the previous month than Europe's blue-chip index, the Euro Stoxx 50, as May drew to a close.

Over a longer six-month time frame, losses on the ASX have not been as bad as in Europe. But our market has still fallen more than Britain's FTSE 100 Index, despite Britain being on the doorstep of Europe.

When you consider how much better our economic situation is than most countries, this is hard to fathom.

Why is our market being punished for events overseas? As the graph shows, the biggest drag on the sharemarket in recent months has been mining companies.

This is because mining is a notoriously volatile, or "cyclical", business meaning global events have a major impact on whether it is profitable. So when gloom descends over the world, as it has in recent months, mining share prices slump.

This is exactly what has happened lately, with mining stocks down more than 12 per cent over three months, more than double the fall on the ASX 200.

Domestic-facing industries such as banks and consumer stocks have felt much less impact from the global tremors.

The index for consumer staples, which includes companies such as Woolworths or Coca-Cola, has even risen in recent months because they are seen as safe bets. After all, people will still buy groceries even if Europe implodes.

It's a similar story for financial stocks, because banks earn most of their profits from domestic lending. But the sting for Australia is that miners play a much bigger role in Australia's market than most developed countries, making up about a third of the index.

So even when the domestic economy is fairly buoyant, global tremors take a hefty toll on Australian shares and most people's super balances.

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