Party-pooping US Fed spooks gung-ho investors globally

It's late at night. The party's in full swing. The music is loud and everyone's having a good time until the host threatens to remove the punchbowl.

It's late at night. The party's in full swing. The music is loud and everyone's having a good time until the host threatens to remove the punchbowl.

That is what happened last week when the US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, said he would have to start "tapering" the massive money printing that has been under way in the US to help economic growth.

Sharemarkets around the world fell as investors pulled out of shares, spooked about what the easing of the cash injection into the US economy would mean for long-term economic growth in America and globally, as well as asset prices in the short term.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index has given up almost all of the gains it has made since the start of 2013.

The Australian sharemarket, which was trading at about 5200 points in May, looks as if it will close on Tuesday at about 4600 points - a fall of about 15 per cent. All of this year's much-vaunted gains have been erased.

Not only are shares being hammered. The yield on 10-year Australian government bonds is at more than 4 per cent, higher than it has been for more than a year. Bond yields have moved higher around the world. When bond prices fall, yields rise, meaning investors are selling out of bonds.

Even the ultimate "safe haven", gold, has lost its lustre.

Adding to investor fears is China's central bank signalling that it would make credit harder to obtain in an effort to clean-up bank lending.

Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research at Perpetual Investments, said Chinese economic growth could be on its way from about 7.5 per cent now to closer to 6 per cent.

"In Australia, we have copped it in the neck", said Elio D'Amato, chief executive of Lincoln Indicators.

"Our sharemarket has fallen loads more than other sharemarkets," he said.

"You cannot even get a decent rate on a term deposit," he said.

Fortunately, though, for Australian investors, the fall in value of the Australian dollar will help Australian-listed exporters as they earn more for their exports, Mr D'Amato said. That will help those larger companies that export, such as Brambles, CSL, ResMed and Ramsay Healthcare. And then there are the good dividend yields available on Australian listed companies whose dividends have high levels of franking.

"It continues to be a good environment for the banks," Mr D'Amato said. With the recent declines in share prices, shares in big banks will soon be able to be bought on fully franked dividend yields of 10 per cent, Mr D'Amato said.

Jonathan Pain, author of investment newsletter, The Pain Report, said the political uncertainty was not helping Australian markets.

He is expecting the Australian sharemarket to remain volatile in the lead-up to the federal election in September. Longer-term, he is positive on the US economy and economic growth in China, Japan and India.

"The time to be mega-bearish was in 2006 and 2007, not in 2013," he said.

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