Stephen Koukoulas

Stephen Koukoulas

Monday, 22 January 2018 10:55

Tax cuts DO stimulate economic growth

This article first appeared on the Yahoo7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/2307140-040859645.html 

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Get ready for election economics

Let’s get a bit of basic economics and budget analysis sorted out as 2018, a likely year for the next Federal election, starts to unfold.

Tax cuts do stimulate economic growth.

Be it company or income taxes that are cut, the impact on economic growth will be positive, at least in the short run. When the government decides to cut taxes by, say, $1 billion a year, there is a simple transfer of $1 billion cash from the government sector with its saving level reduced by that amount, to the private sector. That $1 billion will be available to be spent, invested or even saved by the private sector. Whatever the end mix, there is a boost to the economy.

And yes, it is as simple as that.

But what if the government decides to spend $1 billion extra on educational, roads, consultants, health care, or any other purpose for that matter?

Well, that would stimulate the economy too. The effect would be different to a tax cut because the money would be directed to a specific area (consultants for example) and not as broadly based as a tax cut. But in the end, $1 billion of cash is simply transferred from the government into the bank accounts of those receiving the money via the extra spending.

Again, it is that simple.

The recent house price data from Corelogic are showing further falls in house prices.

The falls are, disconcertingly, most evident in Sydney where prices have dropped 0.5 per cent so far in January, which brings the aggregate fall since the September 2017 peak to a chunky 2.9 per cent. This means that for a $1 million property in September, the value has fallen $29,000 in just 4 months.

The house price weakness is not confined to Sydney.

In Melbourne, the Corelogic data shows house prices topping-out. Prices are down 0.3 per cent from the December 2017 peak which, to be sure, is not a large decline after the stunning increases of previous years, but a fall it is.

There was another round of euphoria as the monthly labour force data hit the screens. The data showed a nice 34,700 rise in employment in December which brought the total rise in jobs in 2017 to 403,100.

This is good news, to be sure, but how good is it really? What is the context for this increase in employment and how is Australia going in an ever vibrant and dynamic global economy?

Of some concern, Australia’s unemployment rate remains at 5.5 per cent – it actually ticked up from 5.4 per cent the prior month. Interestingly, and something less favourable, is the fact that the unemployment rate has been below 5.5 per cent for just two months (October and November 2017) in the last four and half years. Where is that 5 per cent or lower full-employment target everyone reckons we are near?

What’s more interesting, and a sign of the policy sloth that Australia is enduring at the moment, is that around the world, unemployment rates are falling and are impressively low.

Sure each country will have its quirks but have a look at our 5.5 per cent against these countries.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 14:18

Racehorse Ownership Sets Record High

This article first appeared on the Dynamic Syndications website at this link: https://www.dynamicsyndications.com/news/Racehorse-Ownership-Sets-Record-High 

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Racehorse Ownership Sets Record High

 Fantastic news in the racing industry.

Race horse ownership hit a record high in 2016-17, with Syndications giving an increasing number of people access to a share in a racing thoroughbred.

In 2016-17, there were 79,631 owners of a race horse or a share in a race horse. This is up 0.9 per cent from the number a year earlier and up a healthy 16.8 per cent from the level 5 years earlier in 2011-12.

The nature of horse ownership is changing. The number of registered horses to have 10 or more owners rose to a record high of 1,736 which represented 15.3 per cent of all registered horses. Just think of it, one in seven horses running around Australia’s race tracks is owned by 10 or more people. Back in 2005-06, there were only 659 horses with 10 or more owners, which was just 4.8 per cent of all registered owners.

Thursday, 11 January 2018 14:46

The iPhoneX economic boom

Every man, woman and their dog was blown away with the massive 1.2 per cent rise in Australian retail sales in November. It was enough to spark a sell-off in the bond market and a jump in the Aussie dollar.

The ABS noted in the release that the surge was influenced by the release of the iPhoneX which at around $1,500 a pop, was a big enough issue to mention.

Of course, the iPhoneX was released around the world at the same time in November which prompted me to have a look at the retail sales results in other parts of the world – to see if the iPhone effect was important elsewhere or just confined to Australia.

And guess what?

The illion (formerly Dun & Bradstreet) Business Expectations Survey presented an confident outlook for the economy as 2018 kicked off.

According to the survey, a resilient Construction sector and resurgent Manufacturing industry have the most confident outlook for the first quarter of 2018, according to illion’s latest Business Expectations Survey. Driven by strong expectations for profits, selling prices, capital investment and employment, both sectors topped the final indices for the March quarter, with manufacturing confidence at its highest level since June 2003.

2018 is starting on a positive note for the economy with both business expectations and the actual performance of the business sector at multi-year highs. It would appear that the positive tone from a stronger global economy, together with low interest rates and a competitive level for the Australia dollar are all providing a tail wind for the business sector.

The full survey is available at this link: https://dnb.com.au/_media/documents/Business_Expectations_Q12018_Final.pdf 

 

 

Tuesday, 09 January 2018 10:20

Australia has a trade problem

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/2272401-034728405.html 

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Australia has a trade problem

Australia’s international trade position is getting markedly worse.

The bad news is that exports are falling, despite a strong global economy and some strength in commodity prices. At the same time, imports have picked up partly because of the overvalued level of the Australian dollar and partly because of an increase in capital goods imports which are picking up in line with the improvement in business investment.

In November, Australia registered a monthly deficit of $628 million on trade in goods and services which was the second deficit in a row and it sits in stark contrast to the monthly trade surpluses around $3 billion in late 2016 and early 2017. The weakness in exports is surprising. The world economy is strong with growth getting close to the best in a decade. Commodity prices are rising in line with the global strength which should be adding significantly to our export receipts. The fact that exports have been falling for nine straight months in trend terms is probably best explained by the strength of the Australian dollar which is more than offsetting the positive influences. The strong Aussie dollar, it should be noted, is being held up by Australia’s relatively high interest rates.

In the 34 years since the Australian dollar was floated, there have been numerous examples of how a high (overvalued) Australian dollar has eroded the international competitiveness of the export sector.

Monday, 08 January 2018 08:36

Sydney house prices still heading lower

Eight days into 2018 and the Corelogic price series shows that Sydney house prices have edged a further 0.1 per cent lower since 31 December 2017.

Not a large fall, to be sure, but it builds on the falls in Sydney house prices recorded in October, November and December. It is signaling the impact of the quadrella of headwinds in the form of new supply, tighter lending rules, rising interest rates for investors and better investment opportunities in other asset classes.

From the peak in early September 2017, Sydney house prices have fallen by 2.5 per cent. That’s about $25,000 on a $1,000,000 property.

The price decline, to date, has been orderly and still small in the context of house prices doubling over the previous decade. But it does mean that some of the powerful wealth effects that helped to fuel the New South Wales economy will be missing in 2018, and perhaps beyond. If the falls become more acute, there could be some spill-over problems to the broader economy.

The betting markets are fielding on the next Federal election and at the moment, the punters are saying Australians are set to elect the Labor Party to office.

There are several bookies offering odds and the best odds available are $1.62 for Labor and $2.60 for the Coalition. Allowing for the bookies margins, the probabilities are approximately 65 per cent chance of a Labor win and about a 35 per cent change of a Coalition win. This means Labor are a 2 in 3 chance of winning, with the Coalition a 1 in 3 chance. Enough of the lesson of odds.

Betting markets are not particularly reliable when elections are 6 to 12 months away. But the close the election is, the more accurate they become. Recent high profile exceptions were Brexit and Trump, but even there, the odds of both of those results was no wider than $5 a week or two from polling day.

Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:53

Housing vs stocks – where to invest in 2018?

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/housing-vs-stocks-invest-2018-032901719.html 

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Housing vs stocks – where to invest in 2018?

2018 is kicking off with the share market trading at its highest level in almost a decade and the housing market starting to weaken, with prices falling in Sydney, Perth, Darwin and Melbourne, and flat-lining or slowing in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. House prices in Hobart are the only shining light amid the increasing nation-wide gloom on housing.

These unfolding trends present an interesting choice for investors, who in recent years have generally been well rewarded with a high allocation of investment funds towards housing and a lesser allocation to stocks.

This is changing and could well be set to continue through the course of 2018 and beyond. The prospect of half a decade of flat or falling house prices is not conducive for investors, almost regardless of the alternatives.

The dynamics of housing are well understood. Extraordinary prices gains over the past decade or so have delivered stellar returns, albeit with a relatively low rental yield, rising costs of ownership (council rates, insurance and the like). The very low interest rates that provided financial comfort to investors as many maximised their debt on the expectation house price rises would offset those costs is less and less relevant as prices start to fall. In other words, with house prices now flat and falling, these dynamics mean that investing in housing is at best marginal, even with the absurdly generous tax policies in the form of negative gearing. Add to that a rise in the interest rate the banks charge investors as a result of the regulatory changes imposed by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, and it is fair to say housing, as an investment, has almost no appeal.

So what alternatives for investors are available?

THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

How Labor lost the federal election SO badly

Thu, 07 Nov 2019

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance website on 20 May 2019 at this link:  https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/why-labor-lost-the-election-so-badly-211049089.html 

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How Labor lost the federal election SO badly

The Coalition did not win the election, Labor lost it.

The tally since 1993 for Labor is a devastating seven losses out of nine Federal elections. By the time of the next election in 2022, Labor will have been in Opposition for 23 of the last 29 years. Miserable.

The reasons for Labor’s 2019 election loss are much more than the common analysis that Labor’s policy agenda on tax reform was a big target that voters were not willing to embrace.

Where the Labor Party also capitulated and have for some time was in a broader discussion of the economy where it failed dismally to counter the Coalition’s claims about “a strong economy”.

In what should have been political manna from heaven for Labor, the latest economic data confirmed Australia to be in a per capita recession. This devastating economic scorecard for the Coalition government was rarely if ever mentioned by Labor leader Bill Shorten and his team during the election campaign.

This was an error.

If Labor spoke of the “per capita recession” as much as the Coalition mentioned a “strong economy”, voters would have had their economic and financial uncertainties and concerns confirmed by an elevated debate on the economy based on facts.

This parlous economic position could have been cited by Labor for its reform agenda.

Why animals are a crucial part of the Australian economy

Thu, 07 Nov 2019

This article was written on 31 October 2019: It was on the Yahoo Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/animals-crucial-australian-economy-192927904.html 

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Why animals are a crucial part of the Australian economy

Animals are a critical part of the Australian economy, either for food, companionship or entertainment.

But every month, millions of sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, fish and other animals are bred and then killed. Most of them are killed in what we define as ‘humane’, but no doubt tens of thousands are horribly mistreated, as are a proportion of the animals we keep as pets.

Animals are slaughtered to provide food for human food consumption, to feed other animals (your cats and dogs are carnivorous) and for fertiliser.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics collects a range of data on animal slaughterings and the most recent release of the Livestock and Meat data release included the following facts.