Tag Archives: FHBG

Australia’s Property Bubble: It’s Here

27 Mar

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

It’s official: 60 per cent of investors believe Australia has a property bubble. A confluence of housing shortages, low interest rates, speculative fervour and last year’s move by the Rudd Government to relax foreign ownership rules on real estate have turbo-charged house prices.

This is all scary stuff.  Investors played a key role in expanding the property bubble through the late 90s. In 1990 investment loans represented 16 per cent of Australian mortgages at $13 billion. By 2008 that figure had ballooned 2400 per cent to $310 billion, or 31 per cent of total mortgages. Investor attitudes matter.

The survey revealed, however, that moral hazard may be much larger than investors themselves admit, with 42 per cent expecting the Rudd Government to introduce another round of first home buyer grants if the current boom shows signs of ending.

The increase in foreign purchases also cannot be under estimated, following the decision last March by the federal government to relax its rules on property ownership. This abolished mandatory reporting of such acquisitions in a bid to ”enhance flexibility in the market”.

Before the change, foreign investment in Australian residential property had already started increasing, up 33 per cent to $20.4 billion. It is not known what the figures stand at in 2010 but there are suggestions that more than 30 per cent of homes auctioned are purchased by foreign speculators. If this is the case, it will dramatically add to the property bubble.

It is a potential political time bomb. Numerous readers have written in complaining that they are being priced out of the market by overseas bidders…

Another Investor Pulse reader wrote: “So much for Rudd’s ‘working families’. Australians should get priority over foreign investors for what limited housing we have. How can Australians compete when Chinese borrow at home at 1 per cent? The Australian property market is strong and doesn’t need to be propped up. The Government should act now to stop this misguided and UN-Australian policy. Shame on you, Mr Rudd, for selling out on Working Families.”

Barnaby Joyce is the only Australian politician who has been brave enough to endure smears and criticism, by daring to question the Rudd Government’s relaxing policies on foreign investment.

Here’s just one of Senator Joyce’s press releases on the topic from last year,  “FIRB Changes – Australia’s Sovereignty At Risk“:

Senator Joyce today called on Treasurer Wayne Swan to re think his undermining of the present system of reviewing foreign investments and takeovers.

Mr Swan’s announcement should sound very loud alarm bells to anyone concerned with maintaining Australia’s sovereignty over its resources and business interests given that  Mr Swan plans to remove  Foreign Investment Review Board supervision of over 20 percent of all business applications currently reviewed by the board.

This effective sidelining of the FIRB relating to a substantial number of applications is deeply troubling as it removes a long standing and much needed level of accountability and transparency of foreign investment in Australia particularly by individual investors from countries such as the Peoples Republic of China.

It is astounding Mr Swan would seek to punch such a big hole in Australia’s foreign review processes, leaving the back door wide open for foreign interests to buy Australia paddock by paddock, business by business without any accountability to the Australian people.

Unfortunately for Australia each of the announced measures will allow that hole to get bigger to the detriment of Australia’s sovereignty and its national interest.

Yet again, Barnaby is the only one who is on the ball.

UPDATE:

From The Age:

Foreign buyers inflating market

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens says foreign buyers are a factor in rising house prices.

Mr Stevens said the bank was monitoring how much the federal government’s decision last March to relax its rules on foreigners owning property had contributed to surging prices for housing.

He said the role of foreign purchases was ”an important one and it’s one we’re giving some attention to”.

Household Finances Deteriorate

20 Mar

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The Australian economy is set to grow further in 2010, but household financial conditions are deteriorating to the extent the nation could experience a W shaped economic recovery, a report shows.

Melbourne Institute bulletin of economic trends shows the domestic economy is set to grow by 0.8 per cent in the March quarter and by 0.6 per cent in the June, September and December quarters.

But the report’s household financial conditions index fell 16.6 per cent to 28.8 index points in the March quarter of 2010.

It was the first fall in the index after four consecutive quarters of improvement.

More than half of the 14.4 per cent households who consider themselves to be financially stressed, are employed while employed people with a household income of over $80,000 are the most financially stressed out of all income groups.

The report said part of the deterioration in financial conditions was due to the increased need to service household debt, in particular mortgage debt.

This report indirectly highlights the very real danger of Australia’s unprecedented level of private debt. And in particular, mortgage debt.

Economist Steve Keen, who predicted the GFC in 2005, is Australia’s leading proponent of the argument warning against high private debt levels, and against government policies which have dangerously inflated Australia’s private debt, such as the First Home Owers Boost.

Visit Professor Keen’s ‘Debtwatch‘ website to learn more.

Special Note:

On April 15th through 23rd, I will be joining Professor Keen in his 230km “Keenwalk” from Parliament House to Mount Kosciuszko, in protest against Australia’s property (and debt) mania that has been driven directly by Federal Government and RBA policies.

Please consider joining us, for the whole trek or even just for an afternoon section of the walk.

If you’d care to assist a genuinely worthy cause, then please consider sponsoring Professor Keen, or indeed myself. Funds raised will support the wonderful charity Swags For Homeless.

Thanks!

Europe’s Banks Brace For UK Debt Crisis

14 Mar

From the UK’s Telegraph:

UniCredit has alerted investors in a client note that Britain is at serious risk of a bond market and sterling debacle and faces even more intractable budget woes than Greece.

“I am becoming convinced that Great Britain is the next country that is going to be pummelled by investors,” said Kornelius Purps, Unicredit’s fixed income director and a leading analyst in Germany.

Mr Purps said the UK had been cushioned at first by low debt levels but the pace of deterioration has been so extreme that the country can no longer count on market tolerance.

Sound familiar?

Our economy too, was once cushioned by low debt levels. Not any more.

In my view, the only really fundamental difference between the UK’s dire economic situation and Australia’s, is this: as happens so often, with so much in Australia, we are simply running a couple of years behind on the major international trend.

The UK property bubble has already burst. Ours hasn’t … yet.  Only because the Government had cash in the bank to prop up our property bubble – and thus, our banking sector – by doubling the First Home Owners Boost.

When another wave of the GFC rolls in, we no longer have a “low debt” position to cushion the blow.

The only question seems to be, from which direction will the next wave come?  From Europe?  From the UK? From the USA? Or, from China?

Australia Only OECD Nation With Rising Debt

11 Mar

From Marketwatch:

Australia’s seemingly bulletproof economy could soon face fallout from high debt levels and purportedly misguided policies designed to pump up asset prices, according to an outspoken skeptic of the nation’s housing boom.

Economist Steve Keen of the University of Western Sydney, who claims* to have accurately foreseen the global financial crisis, said he’s been dismayed by what he sees as a growing nationwide housing bubble stoked by government efforts to forestall economic pain.

Keen points to a first-time homebuyer subsidy program, various other stimulus programs, and a 4-percentage-point reduction in interest rates — policies introduced in the wake of the 2008 crash and which he termed “The Boost” — as having helped fueled a new housing boom and a 6% rise in mortgage debt last year.

“The Boost has … given Australia a dubious distinction when compared to the rest of the OECD. Yes, we are the only country that avoided a technical recession; but we are also the only country where debt levels are rising once more compared to GDP, rather than falling” …

*Proof of Professor Keen’s “claim” can be independently verified in this research paper, which references a handful of economists who did predict the GFC in advance.

UPDATE:

On April 15th through 23rd, I will be joining Professor Keen in his 230km “Keenwalk” from Parliament House to Mount Kosciuszko, in protest against Australia’s property mania that has been driven directly by insane – and in my personal opinion, immoral – Federal Government and RBA policies.

Please consider joining us, for the whole trek or even just for an afternoon section of the walk.

If you’d care to assist a genuinely worthy cause, then please consider sponsoring Professor Keen, or indeed myself. Funds raised will support the wonderful charity Swags For Homeless.

Thanks!

Tanner Lies About Budget, GFC

11 Mar

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has demonstrated yet again that he is a liar and a fraud:

Lindsay Tanner today accused the Opposition of punching a $2 billion hole in the budget after it helped defeat a means test on the private health insurance rebate last night.

“Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party are blocking almost all the government’s major initiatives in the Senate these days,” Mr Tanner told ABC radio.

“We faced a huge budget problem as a result of the global financial crisis. We have to repair the damage to the budget and we have to get the budget back into surplus as quickly as possible.”

“Yet he’s punched a huge hole in our savings initiatives that are designed to get the budget back into surplus quickly.”

In a recent column for the Sydney Morning Herald, ironically and hypocritically titled “Dishonesty in the debt debate”, Lindsay Tanner wrote:

Why are we going into debt?  Because the global financial crisis punched a huge hole in our projected revenues, and forced us to act to support the economy and to sustain jobs.  Had we just sat back and watched, as our opponents seem to suggest, we would have seen unemployment rise dramatically.  That would have reduced tax revenues even further, and thus pushed us into deficit anyway… The Rudd government had no choice but to intervene to protect Australian working people from the ravages of the crisis.  The dishonest campaign about debt being prosecuted by our opponents should be seen for the fraud it is.

Tanner’s claim that the GFC “punched a huge hole” in the government’s projected revenues, is an outright lie. And I will prove it to you, from the government’s own Budget documents.

The real reason that Rudd Labor faces a “huge budget problem” is not a result of the global financial crisis. Instead, it is entirely a result of their panicked, monumentally incompetent response to the idea of a GFC.

The simple fact is this: Contrary to Tanner’s recent claim, and Labor’s shrill proclamations throughout 2009, the GFC barely affected Australian government revenues at all. The “huge budget problem” is entirely of the Rudd Government’s own making. Because their team of uneducated economic illiterates panicked, and went on a massive, unnecessary spending binge. And now they are lying to cover up that fact.

Want proof?

Take a look at the Government’s 2009-10 Budget, Statement 10, released in May 2009.  It shows that Government income (“Receipts”) was estimated to be down by just $7.8bn (2.7%) on the previous year –

Continue reading ‘Tanner Lies About Budget, GFC’

Home Loans Slump Most In A Decade

10 Mar

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The number of home loans plummeted by 7.9 per cent in January, the biggest fall since June 2000, after the phasing out of last year’s first-home buyers’ grant boost and interest rate rises sapped demand.

January’s result follows a revised 5.1 per cent drop in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported, citing seasonally adjusted figures. Economists had been predicting a 2 per cent increase in January.

As usual, over the “long run” we again see that the predictions of mainstream economic “experts” are wrong.

This result underlines what contrarian economists such as Professor Steve Keen have been warning for several years.  That the government and Reserve Bank of Australia have, together, fuelled a massive bubble in property prices.  Rudd Labor’s doubling of the First Home Owners Boost, and the RBA’s slashing of interest rates in late 2008, have encouraged tens of thousands of borrowers to take on ever greater levels of debt. In the process, these buyers armed with cash handouts from the government and tempted by record-low interest rates, have bidded up the already record-high prices of Australian real estate.

Now that the FHOB has been withdrawn by a debt-laden government, and interest rates are beginning to rise, immediately we see a dramatic fall in demand for the loans that support Australia’s unprecedented housing bubble.

Rain For Henry, Stevens’ Parade

5 Mar

From Business Spectator:

Today’s commentary is all about lessons learned and not learned in the GFC.

ABARE has rained on the commodity bulls’ parade with forecasts of falling commodity prices in the medium term, and a falling dollar from next year. This is no surprise to this column, which has argued consistently that the prices of the last cycle will not be repeated because that cycle’s global building boom – from Shanghai to Dubai – was a once-in-a-lifetime event, characterised in the worst cases by massive empty buildings. Mine supply has also now caught up.

The commentary then goes on to critique Michael Stutchbury’s recent article regarding the Australian housing bubble:

Heavens to Betsy. This column will simply observe that house prices reached unprecedented multiples of income in the last cycle and are now threatening to go higher still. And even in Stutchbury’s own terms the boom is based upon easy money – this time fiscal – the First Home Buyers’ Grant (FHBG). We might also note that it was coupled with the lowest cost of mortgages in fifty years. Let’s call a spade a spade. The FHBG was, in the long run, a calamitous policy. It has re-inflated the great Australian housing bubble, underpinned it with moral hazard and badly compromised monetary options… A historic opportunity to de-risk the Australian economy was missed.

If we learned anything form the GFC it is not to trust financial advice, and John Durie of The Australian analyses where new regulation to protect small investors is headed. “Myriad studies have revealed that 50 per cent of Australian adults don’t understand what 50 per cent means.

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