Australian stocks are already among the best developed market performers this year, but that is not stopping some observers of the worlds twelfth-largest economy from forecasting more upside.
Last week, Credit Suisse boosted its year-end price target for the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 to 6,000 from 5,600, citing the potential for increased mergers and acquisitions activity, reports Leslie Shaffer for CNBC.
“Credit Suisse forecasts around $9 billion worth of share buybacks this year, helped by lower debt costs, while it expects more than $22 billion worth of S&P/ASX 200 acquisitions will be completed this year,” according to CNBC.
The bullish outlook for Australian equities comes as the iShares MSCI Australia ETF (NYSEArca: EWA) and the WisdomTree Australia Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: AUSE) have posted an average year-to-date gain of 8%. That despite the fact that the S&P/ASX 200 trades at a premium valuation relative to the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. [Expensive, but Aussie Stocks Still Rise]
Australian equities have also rallied in the face of a strong currency. Although ETFs such as EWA and AUSE are home to major raw materials exporters such as BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) and Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO), and often at large weights, the funds have still managed to surge despite an almost 6% year-to-date gain for the CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust (NYSEArca: FXA).
Like EWA and AUSE, FXA could be poised for further upside amid speculation the Reserve Bank of Australia could reverse its stance from dovish to hawkish due to accelerating economic growth. Since 2011, RBA has cut rates by 225 basis points to 2.5%.
However, Australia is expected to have the third-fastest rate of economic growth among developed markets this year, which could force the RBA to consider rate hikes. That does not mean Australia ETFs will languish.
New Zealand and the U.K. are the developed markets where growth will outpace Australia this year an the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has already hiked rates twice in 2014 while the Bank of England is widely expected to follow suit in the coming months. The iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEArca: EWU) has traded higher this year while the iShares MSCI New Zealand Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ENZL) is higher by 13.4%. [Higher Rates Won’t Derail Australia ETFs]
There are other Australia ETF options to consider, including the new SPDR MSCI Australia Quality Mix ETF (NYSEArca: QAUS), which debuted earlier this month as part of a suite of six quality single-country funds from State Street, tracks the MSCI Australia Quality Mix A-Series Index and charges 0.3% per year.
QAUS holds 69 stocks with a combined 55% of its weight going to the financial services and matierals sectors.
iShares MSCI Australia ETF