My open letter and offer to DFA’s Martin North – Skin in the game on house prices

Mon, 17 Sep 2018  |  

My open letter and offer to DFA’s Martin North – Skin in the game on house prices

I have sent this to Martin North, founding Principal, Digital Financial Analytics.

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Dear Martin

Congratulations on your cameo on the TV program 60 Minutes. It was gripping viewing and a quite fantastic story.

I note with a huge amount of interest your forecast for property prices to fall by “40 to 45 per cent”.

It is a big call and certainly grabbed the attention of many in the public.

I note also that on your blog, you suggest the quote which included that forecast was not given the context you attached to it, namely, you rated it “only a 20 per cent chance” and that the 40 to 45 per cent price fall would be “over 3 years or so”.

That context is important.

Over the many years I have been making forecasts for the economy and markets and seeing others do the same, I find that forecasts without any skin in the game are often compromised. It is easy to construct a headline grabbing forecast for a significant move in markets, including house prices for example, but when they fade into oblivion, there are no implications for the forecaster. Forecasts really only has validity if the forecaster has an interest in the forecast being correct.

In other words, would the forecaster really make that forecast if they put their money where their mouth is?

To that end, I would like to offer you the following wager:

I will offer 6 to 1 ($15,000 to $2,500) that Sydney or Melbourne or national wide house prices 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 you $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, you have to give me $2,500.

How is that for generous and a wonderful chance to leverage your forecast into some cold hard cash?

Not only am I offering very generous odds (6 to 1 which is above your 5 to 1 probability), but I am tapering your forecast by a massive 5 to 10 per cent from the 40 to 45 per cent fall you were forecasting on the 60 Minutes program (prices only need to fall 35 per cent) and I am offering three possible markets for that to occur (either Sydney, Melbourne or the eight capital cities measure) and for the peak to trough being around 4 years, not the 3 years you suggest.

As an additional bet over and above that offering, I will offer 2 to 1 ($20,000 to $10,000) that at no stage from the peak in prices and the December quarter 2021, Sydney or Melbourne or national wide prices drop more than 22.5 per cent. That is a very generous 2 to 1 for a fall of just half of your forecast decline. If at any stage dwelling prices fall by 22.5 per cent or more, you collect $20,000, if they don’t you pay me $10,000.

How is that for amazingly generous odds and for you to have a great return even if you are half right?

The June quarter 2018 residential price series is released this week (18 September 2018) which will not change my offer but will add a little bit more information on the extent of the current price down turn.

This offer is open until 5.00pm, Canberra time, Friday 28 September 2018.

I look forward to hearing from you.

I will make the details of this offer and your response to it public as an additional part of establishing our credibility in the all important forecasting space.

Kind regards


Stephen Koukoulas

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Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Thu, 06 Dec 2018

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance web site at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/dont-fall-spin-scott-morrisons-budget-surplus-no-certainty-224422761.html 

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Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison could yet be guilty of prematurely declaring that his government will deliver a budget surplus in 2018-19.

Sure, tax revenue is growing at a rapid pace and the government is underspending on a range of government services, but there are still seven long months to go between now and the end of the financial year that might yet blow up the surplus commitment.

PM Morrison’s ‘return to surplus’ boast is based, it appears, on hard data for the first four months of the 2018-19 financial year on revenue and spending information from the Department of Finance. These numbers do look strong, at least in terms of the budget numbers and if the trends on revenue and spending continue, the budget will probably be in surplus. Treasury will be factoring in ongoing economic growth, no increase in the unemployment rate and buoyant iron ore and coal prices over the remainder of the financial year. These forecasts and hence the budget bottom line are subject to a good deal of uncertainty, as they are every year.

If, as is distinctly possible, the economy stalls in the March and June quarters 2019, commodity prices continue to weaken and if there are some unexpected increases in government spending, the current erroneous forecasts for revenue and spending could leave the budget in deficit.

Change of view on monetary policy

Wed, 05 Dec 2018

In the wake of the September quarter national accounts, and with accumulating information on house prices, dwelling investment, the global economy and spare capacity in the labour market, I have revised my outlook for official interest rates.

For some time, I have been expecting the RBA to cut the official cash rate to 1.0 per cent, a forecast that has been wrong (clearly) given its decision to leave rates steady right through 2018.

That said, it has been a highly profitable call with the market pricing interest rate hikes when the call was made which has yielded a decent return as time has passed.

My updated profile for RBA rates is:

May 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.25%
August 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.00%
November 2019 – 25bp cut to 0.75%

The risk is for rates to 0.5% in very late 2019 or in 2020

It will be driven by:

  • Underlying inflation remaining below 2%
  • GDP growth around 0.25 to 0.5% per quarter in 2019
  • Annual wages growth stuck at 2.5% or less
  • Global growth slowing towards 3%
  • Labour market under-utilisation around 13 to 13.5%

There are likely to be other influences, but these are the main ones.

AUD, as a result, looks set to drop to 0.6000 – 0.6500 range.