My old sparing partner and AFR scribe, Christopher Joye, thinks "when [house] prices do start sliding, it is not inconceivable that we could see unprecedented 10 to 20 per cent losses across the board".
While I am clearly worried about the current run up in house prices and can see a period where house prices will falter as the RBA moves to a monetary policy tightening cycle, Chris' view of such large falls seems to be askew.
As a result, I am offering Chris a simple two-tiered offer based on his forecast.
The RPData five city house price index rose a thumping 2.3 per cent in March which is a stunning rate of increase at a time when house prices are already elevated.
For the first three months of 2014, the RPData series shows house prices up 3.5 per cent, or an annualised pace of close to 15 per cent. This is a rate of increase that must be causing the RBA some concerns as it continues to sit on official interest rates at a record low 2.5 per cent.
While the RBA does not target house prices with its monetary policy settings, it is well aware of the macroeconomic policy risks that come with house price booms... and busts. House price booms generally lead to a pick up in speculative borrowing and a ratcheting down of lending standards by financial institutions as every one wants to get on board the price surge.
It is refreshing to see the RBA catching up to my view about the strength of the domestic economy. In recent days and weeks, RBA officials have finally acknowledged some of the general risks to inflation associated with a clear strengthening in the non-mining parts of the economy and from what is an increasingly worrying lift in house prices.
The RBA Board meeting next Tuesday, 1 April, is likely to throw a few more hints that the current 2.5 per cent cash rate is not appropriate for the current fundamentals. The foreign exchange market understanding this as the AUD powers to 0.93 US, even though it is taking an eternity for the many strategists to roll over to the new information.
Booming double digit growth in house prices, a record high level of new housing construction, rising commodity prices, exports surging in both volume and value terms and consumer demand expanding at a solid clip are threatening to put a rocket under inflation, which has already been marching higher since the middle of last year.
The Federal election is still probably 125 or 130 weeks away, but many of the online bookmakers are already offering odds on various aspects of what might happen in politics between now and polling day and of course, who might win.
The Coalition government are warm to hot favourites to win the 2016 election, at $1.45 versus $2.70 for Labor, despite some of the polls that currently have Labor well ahead on a two-party preferred basis. It just goes to show what punters, and the bookies, think of the predictive power of polls two and a half years away from election day.
I am not sure which part of the graph below that Treasurer Joe Hockey does not understand.
Mr Hockey's crusade against the former government and its Treasurer Wayne Swan on the issues of economic management, debt and deficit shows a disturbing lack of self-awareness. Mr Hockey doesn't realise people are laughing at him like a down-and-out soothsayer procliaming "the end is nigh" each time he raises those issues. Indeed, it is a little embarrassing to see Mr Hockey discuss economic management without even the slightest understanding of the issues that make this one of the most extraordinary charts doing the rounds. The information in this chart is likely to fuel a library of Ph D theses as the smart economists around the world work out what went right in Australia and what went wrong in the other advanced economies.
This article first appeared in the March edition of The Melbourne Review:
ANOTHER YEAR OF EXPANSION
The economy has started 2014 on a strong footing, although there remain quite divergent trends within the changing composition of that growth.
Mining investment is falling away very sharply and perhaps one of the easiest things to forecast for the next few years is for further sharp declines. Many of the huge mining projects of the last decade have been completed or are close to completion. The work is finished. Given the huge capacity in mining built up over that time, there are very few new mining projects on the horizon.
The week ends with the Abbott government borrowing a further $700 million today, which brings the total of gross borrowing since 9 September 2013 to $61.15 billion.
$61.15 billion of bond and T-Notes that have been issued in just over six months as the government funds the budget deficit, covers maturing bonds and T-Notes and prepares to fund a range of its policy expenditure items.
As I have noted at nausium on the issue of government debt over recent years, the Australian government's debt level remains trivial, chicken feed, small beer and the campaign of the Coalition Parties to suggest otherwise was factually flawed and it still is.
Rory Robertson, my old mate and former RBA 'lumpy items'* co-conspirator, and I have a wager about the RBA meeting in May.
I quite emphatically believe the RBA needs to hike interest rates soon from the current historically low 2.5 per cent. This is because there has been a flood of information showing a move in the Australian economy to above trend growth, rising inflation, the unpleasant consequences building from a reflation of house prices and an unambiguously stronger world economy.
As has been the case over the last 15 years or so as I have made and refined my interest rate forecasts, my view must be placed in context of the market pricing for interest rates. At the moment, the market is pricing in a small chance of an interest rate cut, yes cut, in May. It may only be a basis point or two, but it is a cut nonetheless. While no one surveyed in the recent Bloomberg survey on interest rates expects the RBA to cut in May, there are still four forecasters expecting a cut by the third quarter of 2014.
Despite more bank economists rolling over and flipping their forecasts for interest rate cuts into calls for interest rate hikes, financial markets are yet to price in those higher rates.
Indeed, for the next few months, the futures market is still pricing in the risk, albeit a low one, that he RBA could still cut interest rates.
A factual interpretation of market pricing is effectively for the RBA to be holding interest rates steady for at least the next year. If this turns out to be correct, it could be the longest period of interest rates on hold on record, noting that it is already 8 months since the last RBA interest rate adjustment.
I smell a big, dirty, dead rat in the IMF report on Australia that the ABC Fact Checking Unit used as its source to verify the basis of Treasurer Hockey's claim that "Of the 17 top surveyed IMF countries, Labor left us with the fastest growth in spending of anyone in the world... and they left us with the third highest growth in debt of anyone in the top 17."
The IMF report has some curious inclusions and omissions in that "top 17".