Is the Aussie economy on the rocks?

Fri, 01 Jun 2018  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/aussie-economy-rocks-050403466.html 

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Is the Aussie economy on the rocks?

I often wonder why people who analyse and comment on the economy don’t keep up to date with unfolding events.

Economics is a wonderful thing. It is vibrant, it changes every week, every month and every quarter as fresh news on inflation, employment, consumer spending, housing, business investment and a whole host of other variables are released. The reason this is important is that the recent, up to date information on the Australian economy is, all of a sudden, disconcerting.

While 2017 did see the strongest growth in employment on record, with an average increase in employment of 34,600 a month, in the three months to April 2018, the averAge monthly increase WAs just 4,800. This has seen the unemployment rate rise from what was a 5 year low of 5.4 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

The labour market has moved on from 2017.

What’s more, the ANZ job advertisement series, which provides a good guide to future trends in the labour market, has fallen for the last three months.

It is not just the labour market where there is some concern.

House prices are still falling. From the peak in October 2017, the Corelogic measure of house prices has dropped by around 2 per cent and there are no signs of the decline being arrested. While a 2 per cent fall after such strength is not yet a concern and the falls are not precipitous, there seems little doubt that further price weakness is on the cards. Housing auction clearance rates are low and banks are continuing to tighten their lending standards for new customers. There is little to suggest a reversal in the house price falls any time soon.

Retail sales are also losing momentum. Having risen 0.8 per cent in real terms in the December quarter 2017, they rose a paltry 0.2 per cent in the March quarter. Consumers are feeling the pinch from a weaker jobs market, low wages growth and high debt levels.

Areas of the economy where they have been positive signs, namely non-mining investment and public sector infrastructure spending, are not strong enough to overcome the weakness in these other areas to ensure bottom line growth in the economy is on track to reach let alone exceed 3 per cent. Unless there is a surprising and major upswing in business investment, the economy will likely remain soggy for a while longer.

For now, most economists including those at the Reserve Bank, are judging the economy to be doing well, with growth strong enough to engineer lower unemployment, raise wages growth and higher inflation. The recent facts suggest they are either looking at the hard news through rose coloured glasses or are paying little attention to run of recent facts.

Over the next 10 days or so, there will be a deluge of data which will provide the basis for a reassessment of economic conditions. By the end of next week, the market and the RBA will have before it updated and fresh news on GDP growth, retail spending, house prices, capital expenditure, credit growth, inflation, public sector spending, exports and international trade. There will, of course, be additional news from around the world.

This stock take on the economy will allow for a recasting of views on the economy. The bulk of these data will need to be surprisingly strong for there to be optimism about the economy into the second half of 2018.

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THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

Why Australians have lost $300 Billion this year

Mon, 22 Oct 2018

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/3665708-004156966.html 

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Why Australians have lost $300 Billion this year

The total wealth of Australians has dropped by close to $300 billion since the start of 2018.

How much of that is yours?

The fall in house prices and now the slump in the stock market is undermining the wealth of Australian householders.

This is an important trend given the solid link between the change in wealth and household spending. Numerous studies show that when wealth increases, growth in household spending is faster than it would otherwise be. It appears that householders view their extra wealth in a manner that sees them lower their other savings or use that wealth as collateral for additional borrowing fund extra consumption. They may even ‘cash in’ their extra wealth and use those gains to fund additional spending.

When they observe falling wealth, experience weak wages growth and realise their savings rates are perilously low, they will adjust their spending – down.

Labor almost home, not quite hosed

Mon, 22 Oct 2018

The extraordinary vote in the Wentworth by election, with the 18 or 19 per cent swing against the Liberal Party, presents further evidence that the Morrison government is set to lose the next general election.

There is nothing particularly new in this with the major nation-wide polls showing the Liberal Party a hefty 6 to 10 points behind Labor.

The election is unlikely to be held before May 2019, which is a long 7 months away. A lot can happen in that time but for the Liberal Party to get competitive, but for this to happen there needs to be a run of extraordinary developments.

In the aftermath of the Wentworth by election, the betting markets saw Labor’s odds shorten.

While the odds vary from betting agency to betting agency, the best available odds at the time of writing was $1.25 for Labor and $4.00 for the Coalition.

If, as most now seem to suggest, Labor is ‘across the line’, $1.25 is a great 25 per cent, tax free return for 7 months ‘investment’. Yet, punters are not quite so sure and seem to be holding off the big bets just in case something out of the ordinary happens.

While some segments of the economy look quite good, at least on face value – note the unemployment rate and GDP – others that probably matter more to voters – husong, share prices, wages and other high-frewquency cost of living issues are all looking rather parlous. And none of these are likely to change soon.

There is an old saying for punters – odds on, look on. But $1.25 for Labor seem great value.