Talk Money with Tony Field – August 6, 2015

Ten percent of farmers are carrying around 30 percent off all the debt (Reuters)
Ten percent of farmers are carrying around 30 percent off all the debt (Reuters)

The New Zealand dollar has fallen to fresh lows this morning.

It is trading at 65.06 US cents, the lowest it has been against the American currency in six years.

The kiwi briefly fell below 65 cents, to 64.87 overnight.

The latest fall was prompted by factors in the United States and in New Zealand.

The latest US service sector numbers proved to be stronger than expected, with the ISM non-manufacturing index hitting 60.3 compared to an expected 56.2 reading. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

It is the highest reading since August 2005. The non-manufacturing sector accounts for two thirds of the US economy.

There is also an increasing expectation that the US Federal Reserve will start hiking interest rates, perhaps as early as next month.

The kiwi has also fallen further because of the dire result at yesterday's dairy auction. Investors were also unimpressed by new job numbers that added to the growing signs the New Zealand economy is slowing.

The markets are increasingly expecting further interest rate cuts, which make the kiwi less attractive to offshore investors looking for places to invest their money.

The kiwi is trading at 88.47 Australian cents. It has slumped to 41.71 British pence, 59.67 euro and 81.24 yen.

Everyone is expecting a big cut to Fonterra's forecast payout to farmers tomorrow.

The only question is how big the cut will be to Fonterra's current forecast of $5.25 per kilogram of milk solids.

Westpac has lowered its forecast payout from $4.30 to $3.70. ANZ has cut its forecast to around $3.50. Others are forecasting just below $4.00.

Recently another diary producer, Open Country Dairy, cuts its forecast to between $3.65 and $3.95. It commented that "as we have regularly communicated, we will constantly update you on what we 'see' rather than what we 'hope to see'".

Some wonder if Fonterra will opt for a more optimistic forecast. But it needs to maintain the credibility of its forecasting.

The break-even point for most farmers is $5.70. Ten percent of farmers are carrying around 30 percent off all the debt.

Statistics New Zealand says unemployment rose to 5.9 percent in the June quarter (148,000 people) from 5.8 percent in the March quarter.

Employment rose as well, by 0.3 percent. But the extra 6000 jobs that were created failed to match the extra 24,000 who became available for work.

The participation rate dropped by 0.2 percent to 69.3 percent.

A majority of economists are picking the official cash rate will be cut by half a percent to 2.5 percent by early next year. But Westpac is picking it could be 2 percent by the end of the year.

The New Zealand economy added 3.0 percent (or 68,000) more jobs in a year. But that is the slowest annual employment growth in nearly two years and it looks set to slow further.

The construction sector slipped from the top spot it has held since late 2013, replaced by manufacturing.

Wage increases have been modest, up 1.6 percent for the year.

All this gives the Reserve Bank more room to cut rates.

Disney has been a blockbuster stock for investors. But it fell 9 percent today as concern grew about the prospects for its most profitable division - ESPN.

Disney has confirmed that subscriber numbers are down, as Americans opt for smaller cable packages that do not include the relatively expensive ESPN sports channels.

There is a growing trend in the US, and elsewhere, of customers 'cord-cutting'. This means they drop their cable TV package, or they opt for a smaller package. The move to online streaming services has accelerated this trend.

Disney's stock price is still up 20 percent this year.

Meanwhile, one analyst is predicting the Star Wars franchise will give Disney a 100-year boost.

Rentrack's Paul Dergarabedian told CNBC that The Force Awakens "is going to break records like we've never seen".

"This is a movie that's opening in December, and if you think about it, their top two earning films of all time opened in December and this is going to join those ranks."

He says that: "Star Wars will bear fruit for the next 10, 20, even 100 years. This is a 100-year plan for Disney with all these various properties. Then these properties go to the small screen, then there's product placement, products associated with Star Wars."

He also told CNBC that Frozen remains a big money maker for Disney. It has grossed over US$1.27 billion at box offices worldwide.

Dergarabedian says Frozen has generated around US$300 million on DVD and Blu-ray sales.

Disney also owns the Disney animation studio, Pixar, Marvel, theme parks and cruise ships.

Netflix has announced a paid parental leave policy that goes far beyond other Silicon Valley companies.

It says its 2000 staff will receive a year's unlimited paid parental leave.

Staff will be allowed to return part-time, full-time, or return and then opt to have more time at home.

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