Houses and Holes

8

Craig James capitulates

Wow, it’s funny what a bit of accountability can do. Last week I noted  how Craig James at Commsec was a part of a more general discourse that needed to stop looking down on Australians for adopting a laudable savings cultre and voila today we have a new tone. From Smart Company: Aussie businesses have

9

Car sales pop

Yesterday one of our more bullish commenters (BK) asked us what we thought of yesterday’s car sales. It’s not usually something we track but it probably should be so thanks for the question and here it is. First from the ABS: I always work in seasonally adjusted figures (unlike DE). The overall result here looks

30

Don’t spare the horses, James

There’s a piece today by Peter Martin and Phillip Wen in the Fairfax press about how: Australians are richer than ever, paying off debt at an unprecedented rate – but still losing confidence in the economy. New figures show wealth per person climbed to a record high of $266,600 at the end of December, easily

8

Westpac: consumers turn off housing

After yesterday’s ray of light in the NAB business survey, today we resume regular programming with another very average economic report. Following are some excerpts from the Westpac Consumer Confidence Survey for April with commentary (full report at the end). Lacklustre Consumer Sentiment The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment rose 1.2% in April from104.1

2

NAB survey breaks the gloom

The NAB March Business Survey is out. It looks like a break in the clouds. NAB itself assessed conditions this way: Business conditions recovering while sentiment remains above trend. Inflation remains low, but purchase costs rising. The Australian economy appears to be showing signs of recovery following the flood-induced slowdown, with the NAB business survey

6

Two speed world

The IMF released it’s quarterly growth update overnight and it’s worth a read. The full report is available below. The introduction argues: The world economic recovery continues, more or less as predicted. Indeed, our growth forecasts are nearly unchanged since the January 2011 WEO Update and can be summarized in three numbers: We expect the world economy to grow at

28

Debt revulsion deepens

More dud data from the ABS this morning in Finance Commitments. Following are the key points. FEBRUARY KEY POINTS FEBRUARY 2011 COMPARED WITH JANUARY 2011: HOUSING FINANCE FOR OWNER OCCUPATION The total value of owner occupied housing commitments excluding alterations and additions fell 1.0% in trend terms and the seasonally adjusted series fell 4.8% PERSONAL

7

EIU report on China’s housing bubble

Below find the executive summary of a new report into China’s housing bubble from The Economist Intelligence Unit. It has some terrific stats and is well worth your time, even though its analysis and conclusion add up to the intensely suspicious conclusion that ‘this time it’s different’. One particular claim I’ll take umbrage with is

17

The underemployment question

Yesterday’s strong employment numbers from the ABS stoked an interesting debate in the comments about what degree of underemployment Australia suffers. To help the debate along I’ve drawn up the following table from the ABS Underemployed Workers report. It is annual only and from Spetember 2010 It clearly shows two things. First, that labour markets in

15

The mad, bad commodity rally

There’s something wrong with this rally. To be honest, beyond some vague notion of Japanese reconstruction demand, I can’t find any real cause for it. With China clearly not done with tightening, QE2 about to cease, the ECB hiking rates, global growth past its prime and oil punching through $1.10 on Gaddafi’s scorched earth policy,

17

Will the RBA cut?

Right now, the economy is far weaker than media and bank economist blather is letting on, or understands. For that matter it’s far more weak than global markets are assuming. The reason is simple and goes back to a piece I wrote ten weeks ago: So, let’s take a closer look at where we are

53

Housing finance shocker

The drumbeat of crappy housing data is getting louder and more frequent. From the ABS February Housing Finance we get the following: Here are a string of graphs to give you a feel for how bad the trends are: I call them bad, yuk, crap and foul. And here’s one last one to drive home the

20

Golden rocket

As gold again surged to record highs last night on dovish Bernanke comments and weak data, it’s time to revisit the rally. I first began recommending gold to anyone that would listen in early 2001. I was laughed at. Later that year, my friends laughed at me again. This time, it was a running joke

25

Canberra please read: Roubini calls time on China

From Nouriel Roubini at RGE Monitor: I’m writing on the heels of two trips to China during which I met with senior policy makers, bank executives and academics, just as the government launched its 12th Five-Year Plan, intended to rebalance the long-term growth model. My meetings deepened my own impression and RGE’s long-standing house view of

22

Hawks and doves

So, it’s rates day. The usual suspects are out pounding the pavement. All over the media, currency boffins are calling for hawkish rhetoric from the RBA. But they’re all outdone by Australia’s one-man inflation fighter, former deputy governor of RBA, Henry Thornton, who calls for a hike today: Wage claims are on the march, with

3

Boom and bust is back

With Brent and WTI crude both surging to post-GFC highs Friday, I’m beginning to suspect that the world has entered a new era of oil price and growth volatility that spells the end of the Great Moderation. Why so? Supply and demand are the key to all things economic.  Previously at this site, the Unconventional

45

WTF AIG

Sigh…I’m having an angry week. Regular readers will know that I’m no fan of vested interests. But I make one exception. Right now, the nation DESPERATELY needs a new vested interest body to support the non-resource tradable goods sectors of manufacturing, tourism and education. I can’t remember a peep out of either the education sector

3

Risks to the Aussie

The question I asked last week about Chinese growth and iron ore demand seems to have been answered for now. That question was the following: Not only has the market not priced a significant, if cyclical, China slowdown, if it comes, Chinese steel makers may very well enter an inventory cycle that liquidates some portion

77

House buying strike!

The above headline can’t have escaped the attention of many Australians yesterday. It sat at the top of the SMH, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today websites all afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I saw 500 comments on a Fairfax story (I literally can’t remember so it may not be that long).

8

Jobs point to restructure

The ABS released its Job Vacancies for February survey today. The overall release was a slight seasonally adjusted fall. More interesting is the industry split. The first chart below is for sectors with rising job ads for the month: And the second is for sectors with falling job vacancies for the month: This industry sector split

25

The aliens have landed

An alien has landed in Australia and is confusing the hell out of everyone. That alien’s name is lack of system growth. In the old system, as the pie got bigger, there were no losers, only degrees of winners. Corporations in Australia’s dominant finance, realty and retail sectors could swap 2 per cent market share

19

The bulls circle the wagons

Today on Smart Company, Craig James of Commonwealth Bank offered this brief article: The Reserve Bank Governor was asked a question on Australian home prices when he delivered a speech in London on March 10. The comments weren’t well reported, but he highlighted the fact that home prices aren’t rising strongly at present, that arrears

4

Tough day for banks

Banking Day today has a string of interesting articles that dramatically underline the increasingly dour future for the major banks, not to mention the broader services deconomy. First up, the possibility that the banks will, after all, be dragged into the new international measures demanding extra capital for systemically important financial institutions: Global financial regulators

16

Here come the rate cuts, not

From Banking Day: The Australian Government will set the cap on the percentage of assets that can be used to support covered bonds at eight per cent, the Financial Review reports – up from the cap of five per cent suggested by the Government back in December. For some weeks, talk in banking and government

14

RBA warns banks on expanding risks

Back in March 2009, former Reserve Bank Governor Ian Macfarlane gave a now famous speech in which he outlined why Australian banks had avoided the worst consequences of the GFC, because of dumb luck. One of his principle insights in drawing this conclusion was that the banks had benefited from the ebbing of competitive pressures

4

Rio has a whinge

Some days rent-seeking is a challenging business. Take Tom Albanese, CEO of Rio Tinto, who today held forth on the evils of government intervention in mining. According to Reuters: Besides, technical constraints, we are also seeing human constraints. We are seeing a combination of resource nationalism in some cases,” he said, citing “difficult governance” in

4

Gotti is wrong on oil

But should be congratulated for staking out a position, a rare event in today’s world of commentary flip flopping. As Deus Forex Machina likes to say, disagreement makes a market so let’s rip in. Gotti asks: Why should oil prices rise in response to the latest turn of events in Libya? We are already seeing

2

Michael Pettis: China slowing

` Exclusively from Michael Pettis newsletter: Quite a few numbers came out this week, but none of them were especially dramatic or likely to change anyone’s mind about anything. The most interesting thing to me is that there are indications that, once again, the economy may be slowing quickly. Every time Beijing gets worried about too

4

Late to the party

As governments far and wide wake up to the danger of fallout in Japan, one is tempted to conclude that the crisis is past its worst. Governments have a habit of coming late to the party. But, in this case, I’m not so sure. I continue to think that markets are underestimating the damage being

15

How Japan will hit local growth

I am surprised at the resilience of Australian equities to the global sell-off. Either the local market is confident that the crisis can be contained (for some reason I can’t fathom, it’s behaving irrationally, or, it has assessed any economic fallout from the disaster to be minimal for Australia and already priced in). The only