Blog

Fri, 16 May 2014  |  

After a tepid 0.3 per cent rise in April, house prices have fallen a somewhat large 0.7 per cent in the first 16 days of May, according to the daily RPData house price series.

While the numbers are clearly choppy, volatile and are not seasonally adjusted (the autumn blues?), we just might be seeing the jolt to consumer sentiment and impaired affordability starting to bite what had been a strong rise in prices.

For now, a moderate house price fall of, say, 5 per cent or so would be small beer. Even with the recent house price pick up, which was looking uncomfortably large, the total change in house prices since 2010 has been a little over 6 per cent. This is not a large change.

That said, the perils of falling house prices for the banking sector and the economy more generally are clear. One only has to look at the experience of Ireland, the US, the UK and Spain, to name a few, to see how a drop in house prices can smash the economy into recession.

Wed, 14 May 2014  |  

Mr Hockey's first budget allows me to update my 'size of government' comparison, which I first published on 1 May 2014. It is reproduced in full, below.

For the sake of simplicity, the size of government is calculated by adding revenue and spending as a share of GDP, to see what sort of footprint any particular government has in the economy.

It is early days for the Abbott government, to be sure, but the budget shows that the size of his government will be 49.1 per cent of GDP, calculated on the period from 2014-15 to 2017-18.

This is a smidge below the Howard government (49.2 per cent) and the Hawke / Keating government (49.6 per cent), but is significantly larger than the Rudd/Gillard government (47.4 per cent).

Tue, 13 May 2014  |  

Today's the day the snake oil assumptions that created the budget 'emergency' should be washed away and the true position of the long run fiscal settings will be revealed.

A vital element of the bottom line of the 2014-15 budget and the forward estimates will be the extent to which changes in the economic parameters are the driver of the return to budget surplus.

Most people seem to have forgotten that in the independently prepared PEFO document released during the election campaign in August 2013, the budget was on track to return to surplus in 2016-17. The PEFO used a range of conservative and near consensus forecasts. No serious economist took issue with the numbers underpinning the PEFO estimates.

This changed with the MYEFO in December 2013 when the Treasurer's office forced a range of unduly pessimistic forecasts onto a meek Treasury and as a result, the budget was smashed to the point where never again would Australia record a budget surplus.

Fri, 09 May 2014  |  

With today's $700 million borrowing by the Abbott government, the cumulative total of all borrowing since the election stands at $70.95 billion. Not bad for a government that prior to the election was hell bent of paying off debt but to date has only had policies in place to increase borrowing.

The $70.95 billion of borrowing includes funds to cover maturing bonds and T-Notes, as it always does, as well as covering the Commonwealth government's budget deficit which at the time of MYEFO was assumed to be $47 billion in 2013-14.

Allowing for the borrowing to cover maturities, gross government debt has increased by $46.7 billion since the 2013 election to now stand at $319.925 billion.

Fri, 09 May 2014  |  

This article first appeared on the ABC's The Drum. It is also at https://www.percapita.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=711

Joe Hockey's policy prescriptions along with stronger economic parameters could have the budget heading towards a surplus in 2016-17 and beyond, writes Stephen Koukoulas.

 

The budget will comprise thousands of pages of documents, perhaps a million words, and many hundreds of tables and charts. No one will read it all, not even the Treasurer Joe Hockey or his trusty sidekick, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

That matters little, because from a macroeconomic perspective, which looks at the total impact of the policy decisions that will be taken in the budget, it is thankfully possible to focus on less than a dozen pages and just a few tables.

The big picture view will boil down to a comparison of the new data within the budget with that presented in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) in December 2013 and the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) in August 2013.

Thu, 08 May 2014  |  

The April labour force data reinforce the political fudge that was imposed on Treasury by Treasurer Joe Hockey when the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook was prepared in December 2013.

One of the factors behind the budget non-crisis revealed by Hockey in the MYEFO was driven by Treasury using much weaker economic projections than those used in the independently prepared Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook. This had the effect of reducing revenue and increasing outlays. As the MYEFO noted, the use of artificially weaker economic parameters accounted for $55 billion of the deterioration in the budget botoom line.

One of the biggest fudges occurred with the employment outlook.

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.

THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

Change of view on interest rates

Fri, 24 May 2019

Having been the only economist to correctly anticipate an interest rate cut from the RBA when close to 50bps of interest rate hikes were priced in to the market last year (See Bloomberg 17 August 2018), I have agonised over the exact months the cuts would be delivered and then how many rate cuts would be needed to reflate the economy.

Recently, I was of the view that the RBA would need to cut 100bps from now, to a level of 0.5%, but I did so with relatively low confidence. This is why I recommended all clients to close their long interest rate positions on 17 April 2019 (when the implied yields were 1.10% for the mid 2020 OIS; 1.35% on 3 year yields and the Aussie dollar was just over 0.7000 at the time).

Like in most good trades that were massively in the money, I left a little money on the table while I reassessed the outlook.

Since calling for interest rate cuts from the RBA, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, especially in the last few weeks.

Events mean I am changing my view on interest rates and have been placing / will be looking to implement new trades.

Watch out Australia: There's a flood of dismal economic news on the horizon

Wed, 01 May 2019

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/watch-out-australia-theres-a-flood-of-dismal-economic-news-on-the-horizon-211110783.html

--------------------------------------------

Watch out Australia: There's a flood of dismal economic news on the horizon

The Australian economy is in trouble and Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party government need to come clean and acknowledge this and outline a framework how this period of economic funk is to be addressed if they win the 18 May election.

The Liberal Party is campaigning in the election on a “strong economy” and being “good economic managers”, bold claims that fly in the face of the latest score card for the economy.

That scorecard shows a flood of what is, frankly, disappointing or even dismal economic news. Australia is going through a very rare recession in per capita GDP terms and last week saw data showing zero inflation in the March quarter. Contribution to these indictors of economic funk is the fact that well over half a trillion dollars of householder wealth has been destroyed as house prices have tumbled.

Add to that the fact reported by the Australian Office of Financial management last week that gross government debt is $543 billion, almost double the level that the Coalition government inherited in September 2013, and the scorecard is looking very ratty indeed.

As the ad man used to say, “but wait, there’s more”.