December and summer have finally arrived, and you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as 2021 draws to a close.

As November drew to a close all eyes were on the new strain of the coronavirus, Omicron. Global shares fell sharply on fears that Omicron will spread more easily than other variants and existing vaccines may be less effective against it. Europe is already facing a spike in COVID cases and new lockdowns. Global oil prices fell 10% on Black Friday (November 26) on the threat of renewed border closures and reduced demand for air and road travel. Markets are likely to remain volatile until there is confirmation that a new vaccine can be created quickly, which experts believe is likely.

Elsewhere, the economic smoke signals were mixed. Australian company profits rose 4% in the September quarter, and 5.4% over the year, supported by government subsidies. Not surprisingly, the NAB business confidence index rose 11.2 points in October to 20.8, its second highest result on record. But wages growth is lagging, up 0.6% in the September quarter and 2.2% over the year. Unemployment increased from 4.6% to 5.2% in October while underemployment rose from 9.2% to 9.5%. While retail sales jumped 4.9% in October as lockdowns ended in some states, consumers remain jumpy. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating fell over 2 points in October to 106.0. Adding to hip pocket nerves, the national average unleaded petrol price hit a record high of 170.4c a litre in November. The Aussie dollar fell 4c in November to US71.2c.

Whatever your plans for the holidays, we wish you and your family a happy festive season.