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Thu, 08 May 2014  |  

Another decent chunk of job creation in April, with employment up 14,200 in the month and a nice 106,500 since the end of last year. The unemployment rate was steady at 5.8 per cent, suggesting that the peak in the unemployment rate has probably passed. That peak was 6.0 per cent in January and February 2014.

All of which means the economy is clearly travelling at or above trend, and certainly fast enough to see a decent and sustained lift in employment and for the unemployment rate to be flat to lower over time. The export boom, surging housing construction and decent household consumption growth and swamping any fall away in mining investment.

Wed, 07 May 2014  |  

The Liberal Party has published a booklet about the 'mess' created by six years of Labor government.

It is on odd publication, as it cherry picks a few bits and bobs and tries very hard to make things look bad. I am surprised they failed to note that under Labor, South Sydney did not win a premiership things were so poorly managed.

It is an off time for such a document to be released, when the trash talking of the economy and crisis and emergency narrative surrounding the preparation of the budget from the government has seen consumer confidence smashed in recent weeks and serious questions are being raised by a range of market economists about whether the budget will see the nice growth momentum in the economy in recent months reversed.

Tue, 06 May 2014  |  

In the face on a raft of positive news on the economy and rising inflation, the RBA has seen fit to leave the cash rate at a super-stimulatory 2.5 per cent.

It appears to have done so because its forecasts are suggesting inflation will soon decelerate and that there will be a reversal of the raft of recent good economic news as it expects the fall in the terms of trade to dampen overall economic growth.

Specifically, the RBA notes that for the global economy, "there are reasonable prospects of a better outcome this year".

It goes on to say "Financial conditions overall remain very accommodative. Long-term interest rates and most risk spreads remain low. Equity and credit markets are well placed to provide adequate funding".

Mon, 05 May 2014  |  

The staggering swing in the polls in recent months and weeks now have Labor ahead of the Coalition by between 4 or 10 points. Despite this change in form, there has not been even a one cent move in election betting markets. 

The Coalition are still hot $1.45 favourites to win the next election (presumably in 2016) while Labor are as much as $2.75. This suggests a couple of things about the polls and indeed, the betting markets themselves.  

Importantly, the election is still around 28 months away and the Labor need to gain around 20 seats to win the next election. Time and the size of the Abbott majority make a Labor win unlikely no matter how poorly the government is travelling at the moment.

Mon, 05 May 2014  |  

Ahead of tomorrow's RBA meeting, a flow of local data locks in generally good news on the economy and a still troublesome rate of inflation.

According to the TD-MI monthly inflation gauge, prices rose 0.4 per cent in April, after increasing 0.2 per cent in March. The annual increase rose to 2.8 per cent and remains dangerously close to the top end of the RBA's 2 to 3 per cent target band, especially with monetary policy so loose and the wealth effect from rising house and share prices still very powerful.

The number of building approval was a touch weaker, falling 3.5 per cent in March, after a 5.4 per cent fall in February, but were still 20 per cent higher than a year earlier. While slightly softer, it appears that the housing construction boom remains in place with 2014 likely to see a record number of new dwellings constructed. This vital aspect of the rebalancing of economic growth away from mining investment towards construction appears to be locked in.

In a vital sign for the health of the jobs market, the number of job advertisements, as measured by the ANZ series, rose 2.2 per cent in April and in trend terms, has been rising for six straight months, This bodes well for strong job creation in the months ahead and indicates that the unemployment rate should continue to fall over the near term at least.

Thu, 01 May 2014  |  

In light of the humbug of the 'budget never returning to surplus unless we cut the tripe out of spending', I though it interesting to revisit the sensitivity of budget forecasting to small changes to the economic parameters.

The Commission of Audit finding that Australia will be dogged by perpetual deficits is based on a range of economic projections which assume the economy maintains an output gap over the next decade (real GDP growth never above 3%), nominal GDP growth averaging 4% for the next three years and then only rising to 5.5% thereafter, the unemployment rate remaining at 6% for the next decade and a falling particpation rate.

These forecasts may be right, they may not.

My simple budget forecasting spreadsheet shows that if we change slightly some of those projections and in two of the next three years, real GDP growth hits 3.5% as the output gap closes, if nominal GDP is 0.75% higher in those two years, and the unemployment rate ticks down to 5.5% within a year and then drops to 5% by 2016-17, there are surpluses within three years and that surpluses remain and get larger out to 2023-24.

Thu, 01 May 2014  |  

One of the lame brain fact free and unchallenged assertions doing the rounds recently and one which forms the basis of the Commission of Audit report, is that the spending cuts and other policy changes needed are because the government is getting too big.

While it is open to debate on how best to measure the 'size of government', one way is to look at the sum of Commonwealth revenue and spending as a share of GDP. This means that the more the government raises in tax and then recycles into the economy via spending, the bigger the footprint of government on the economy, and vice versa.

Makes sense?

Thu, 01 May 2014  |  

The last few days have seen some low impact, but nonetheless enlightening, data hit the screens.

Credit growth remains solid, with a 0.4 per cent gain in March which meant the annual growth rate was 4.4 per cent. Not weak, not strong but the annual increase was the fastest since March 2009. Housing credit drove the lift in growth with a 5.9 per cent annual increase while business credit was also on the mend with an annual rise of 2.6 per cent. It seems borrowers and lenders are stepping up to take advantage of the current low level of interest rates and stronger growth more broadly.

The terms of trade (export prices divided by import prices) were broadly stable in the March quarter (up 0.4 per cent) with export prices rising to their highest level since December 2011. The curious thing – at least for the terms of trade doomsayers – is that since the end of 2012, the terms of trade have actually risen by 1.4 per cent, aided by a stronger world economy.

Wed, 30 Apr 2014  |  

The budget is fast approaching and the Abbott government is flagging a deficit reduction levy (tax) and / or an increase in personal income taxes as it works furiously to return the budget to surplus.

This got me thinking about high taxes and which side of politics resorts to tax revenue in its budgetary planning.

Here, in order, are the highest tax to GDP ratios that have been recorded. Here are the Top 10.

Wed, 30 Apr 2014  |  

This article first appeared on 17 May 2013, at my old blog. In the lead into the budget, I thought it worth circulating again.

The Howard government went to capital markets on no fewer than 400 occasions to borrow money.

Between March 1996 and November 2007, there were 135 lines of bonds that were taken to market in various bond tenders which were issued with a face value of $51 billion, while there were over 280 T-Note tenders with a face value of over $220 billion.

Indeed, in the three months before the November 2007 election, the Howard government went to the bond market on 8 separate occasions to borrow money with a series of bond tenders. Even during the election campaign, just 11 days from polling day, it borrowed an additional $300 million in bond tender number 236. In the final term of the Howard government, from October 2004 to November 2007, there were 43 bond tenders or times the government borrowed money.

THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

The houe price bet is on! Tony Locantro takes the offer

Fri, 21 Sep 2018

While Martin North from DFA rejected my generous offer to have a wager based on his call for a 40 to 45 per cent fall in house prices, Tony Locantro, an Investment Manager with Alto Capital in Perth has decided to take up the offer on the same terms that I offered Mr North.

Specifically, we are wagering $15,000 to $2,500 that Sydney or Melbourne or national wide house prices will or will not fall by more than 35 per cent from their peak at any stage before and up to the December quarter 2021.

The measure will be based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics Residential Property Price Indexes, Eight Capital Cities, Catalogue No. 6416.0.

This means that if, at any stage the price index for any of Sydney, Melbourne or the aggregate eight capital cities prices is down 35.0 per cent or more, I will give Tony $15,000 cash. Conversely, if by the time the December quarter 2021 data are published and the peak to trough decline is 34.9 per cent or less in Sydney, Melbourne or the eight capital cities, Tony has to give me $2,500.

Who knows, it might be the start of a wonderful friendship. We have added a nice informal touch – when the cash is handed over, the winner will buy a dinner with a nice bottle of red to console the loser.

I will be providing regular updates as the numbers roll out.

Trump boosts US stocks with borrowed government money

Thu, 20 Sep 2018

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/trump-boosts-us-stocks-borrowed-government-money-011637215.html 

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Trump boosts US stocks with BORROWED government money

US stock prices continue to trade at near record highs and a lot of the recent rise has a lot to do with the policies of President Donald Trump.

The surge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been phenomenal. Since the November 2016 Presidential election, the Dow Jones is up around 50 per cent despite a few hiccups at the start of 2018 as the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates and the threats of a US trade war turned into a reality.

The rise in US stocks, whilst impressive, is built on all the wrong things. ‘Wrong’, that is, in terms of sustainability.

As President, Donald Trump has delivered a range of tax cuts that have a total cost to the budget of around US$1.5 trillion. This one-off, impossible to replicate policy like any other policy that dumps cash into the economy has underpinned stronger economic growth and a temporary lift company profits. The tax changes has seen US companies engage in a record level of stock buy-backs which by design, has been a powerful driver behind rising share prices.

The problem with the Trump tax cuts is that every cent of the US$1.5 trillion has been funded with money borrowed by the government.

Such is the destruction to the US budget, that the US Congressional Budget Office is now estimating the US budget deficit to average a staggering 4.8 per cent of GDP in every year in the decade from 2018 to 2028. When Trump became President, the budget deficit had narrowed to just 2.5 per cent of GDP.