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Note from the editor - 23 November

Glenn Freeman  |  23 Nov 2019Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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The appalling allegations levelled at Westpac by financial regulator AUSTRAC have dominated the financial press this week.

As more than $6 billion was wiped off the market capitalisation of Australia's oldest bank, the ripples spread through Australia's financial markets and politics. The ASX plumbed two-week lows, and Scott Morrison led the chorus of outrage in calling for senior Westpac heads to roll.

It's still not known whether Westpac's penalty will top the $700 million fine AUSTRAC slapped on Commonwealth Bank last August for its own brush with organised crime. But the latest scandal, which includes alleged transactions involving child exploitation, may cut deeper and linger for longer.

The news has already prompted Morningstar's banks analyst Nathan Zaia to cut the stewardship rating for Westpac from Exemplary to Standard. As a result, none of the big four banks carries a Morningstar Exemplary stewardship rating.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg again weighed into the debate over the nation's ageing population, and the economic cost of our burgeoning cohort of retiring Baby Boomers. Frydenberg on Tuesday argued older Australians will have to work longer to ease the burden on the generations that follow.

But there are perhaps other more pressing and uncomfortable questions for those approaching their twilight years, as we take a look at the healthcare costs that go hand-in-hand with rising life expectancy.

And because maximising income is just as important as understanding the costs of getting older, this discussion of how best to hunt down sustainable dividends is required reading—particularly as low interest rates and a flagging global economic outlook keep yields pinned.

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Local stocks with more of a growth bent also featured in our article line-up this week. On Friday, Morningstar added buy-now-pay-later company Zip to its coverage list, joining other BNPL pure-play Afterpay under the purview of equity analyst Chanaka Gunasekera.

Morningstar director of equity research for Australia and New Zealand, Adam Fleck, also upped his share price outlook for A2 Milk following management's guidance upgrade earlier in the week.

Also in the consumer staples segment, shares in Australia's largest supermarket Woolworths on Friday jumped by a third. The Morningstar analyst who covers this stock, Johannes Faul, recently featured in a podcast about Australia's retail sector discussing how he expects the segment to perform in a downturn.

Global stocks featured too. A handful of US auto companies – including big names GM, Ford and lesser known parts supplier Borg Warner—hold investor appeal at current prices. Each of the six companies named are trading considerably below Morningstar's current fair value estimate, including one at an 83 per cent discount at the time of writing.

This week's Fund Spy took a different slant on international equities by looking at some of the companies Morningstar Australia's Gold Medal global stock funds have in common.

Zooming out to the macro markets perspective, Aberdeen Standard's James Thom reveals some attractive refuges for investors buffeted by the headwinds of slower global growth trade tariffs.

Warm regards,
Glenn Freeman

is senior editor for Morningstar Australia

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