US equities turned lower on Thursday on news that U.S. President Biden is planning to nearly double the capital gains tax rate for taxpayers who earn more than USD 1 million a year. The tax rise would help pay for childcare and education, but would not be used for healthcare, according to reports. Stocks recovered most of their losses by the close on Friday as investors seemed to realize that negotiations in Congress would likely make any final tax increase less severe than Biden’s initial proposal.
Quarterly earnings season in the U.S. is in full swing, and the week’s earnings reports provided more evidence of a strong U.S. economic recovery. High-profile technology stocks are set to report earnings in the week ahead. Alphabet (Google) will report on Tuesday, Apple and Facebook on Wednesday and Amazon on Thursday.
Shares in Europe were lower on the week with concerns that rising coronavirus infections could hamper the pace of the economic recovery. In local currency terms, the pan-European STOXX Europe 50 Index ended the week 0.49% lower with the UK’s FTSE 100 Index dropping 1.15%.
In trade news, the UK and Australia say they have agreed "the vast majority" of a free trade deal. If concluded, the UK-Australia free trade agreement will be one of the first post-Brexit trade deals negotiated by the UK.
As expected, the European Central Bank kept its main policy measures unchanged and restated its determination to keep borrowing costs low. In a statement after the meeting the central bank’s governing council said it had “decided to reconfirm its very accommodative monetary policy stance” and vowed to maintain the recently elevated pace of asset purchases.
India on Saturday reported 346,786 new infections in the past day, setting a world record for a third consecutive day, while deaths rose by 2,624 – the highest daily rate for India so far. Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed with the rise in infections. Many parts of the country have tightened restrictions, with the capital in lockdown.
The Nikkei 225 Index shed more than 650 points over the week, before finishing the week 2.2% lower at 29,021. Japan's central government has declared a third state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic with new restrictions imposed in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo. The emergency measures stop short of a full lockdown, but they impose limits on restaurants and other businesses.
In China, the country’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index bucked the trend to end the week 1.4% in the green.
Market Moves of the Week
Locally, the listed property sector was the only major index to gain ground this week with year-to-date gains now equal to those of the All Share Index.
The All Share Index ended the week down over 2%, with the industrial sector (-2.66%) financial (-2.61%) and resource (-1.59%) sectors all ending the week in the red. The rand was marginally stronger this week trading at R14.28 to the U.S. Dollar by Friday close.
Central bank governor Lesetja Kganyago reiterated on Thursday, that the central bank would keep targeting inflation to keep foreign investors happy. Data released this week from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) showed foreign investors have sold nearly 30 billion rand ($2.10 billion) of government bonds year-to-date.
Chart of the Week
The latest Biden proposal to significantly raise capital gains tax as part of an overall goal to increase the income tax rate for America’s most wealthy was initially not well received by markets. Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are currently taxed at a maximum rate of 20%, along with a separate 3.8% tax on investment income. The plan would nearly double taxes on capital gains to 39.6% for people earning more than $1m. In the chart above, CGT hikes are marked in red, and cuts in green. As per the chart there appears to be very little long-term impact of capital-gains tax increases (or cuts) on the US stock market.