Tag Archives: glenn stevens

Digging A Hole For Ourselves

5 Mar

From The Age:

In a series of speeches in recent days, senior economic officials from Reserve governor Glenn Stevens down have spread the same message: the brief interruption of the global financial crisis is over, and Australia has gone back to where it was – into a resources boom so big it will dwarf the booms of the late ’60s and early ’80s.

The Reserve Bank’s best and brightest argue that this will be good for Australia because it will allow us to earn more income now than we would if the minerals stayed in the ground for a few more years.

With the greatest respect, I sharply disagree. I think we need a national debate on whether it really is in our interests to try to sell off our mineral wealth as rapidly as possible, as our economic leaders believe…

We need to think hard about this. The implicit argument from our officials is that we should allow otherwise-viable industries to be put down in the interests of making room for us to extract as many minerals now as possible.

This is wrong: not just because they are picking winners, or just because China, too, has its vulnerabilities and could fall, but because you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

We need to keep a mix of strong, diverse industries to guarantee our future. We need to debate how we do that, and learn from how others do it.

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.

Official: China Bubble ‘Undisputable’

4 Mar

From China Daily:

China’s real estate industry is in an “undisputable” bubble with its skyrocketing property price fermenting an imminent structural inflation that might hijack the country’s booming economy into violent fluctuations, a high-ranking official said on Wednesday’s Beijing News.

“The over-speedy price hike is evident of an undisputable bubble in the property market, which is a major propeller behind the current inflation,” said Yin Zhongqin, deputy chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress.

Famous international financier George Soros has said that he is “very cautious” on China.

Last week, former IMF chief economist Professor Ken Rogoff predicted that the China bubble will bust “within ten years”, sparking a regional recession and hammering commodity exporters.

Despite measures being taken by the Chinese central authorities, leading authorities on Asian economics say that the China real estate bubble cannot be cooled, as it is being driven by trillions of dollars borrowed for speculative, leveraged investments by local municipal governments.

In Australia, our economic authorities are again asleep at the wheel, having confidently predicted a “Golden Age” of “unprecedented prosperity” from a multi-decade mining boom.

Barnaby is right.

Stevens: ‘Risk of Serious Contraction’ Passed

2 Mar

The man who did not see trouble all around in 2008, continually raising interest rates right into the teeth of the GFC, has raised rates again today:

RBA governor Glenn Stevens said the “risk of serious economic contraction” had passed, and an economy that was growing faster than expected would warrant higher interest rates for the rest of the year.

Stevens clearly believes that the Australian economy is magically immune from the sovereign debt crises in the Eurozone, UK, USA, and Japan, and the massive speculative real estate bubble in China.

However, the Rudd Labor government no longer has a $20+ Billion budget buffer inherited from the previous government. Instead, they have put Australia into unprecedented debt that we can never pay back.

Stevens, allegedly a devout Baptist, had best start praying fervently that all the ongoing financial crises in the rest of the world somehow resolve themselves.  Else he will again be shown as a fool… at a terrible price to the Australian public.

Stevens’ Nonchalance ‘Stunning’

2 Mar

This excellent article by David Uren at The Australian suggests that he may be the only mainstream journalist in Australia who is awake to international developments, and not in awe of every utterance from RBA Governor Glenn Stevens:

If the Reserve Bank raises rates again tomorrow, it will risk repeating the mistake it made in early 2008, when it failed to see the global financial crisis coming.

Now, as then, it is beguiled by soaring commodity prices and believes Australia can shrug off what it sees as essentially local woes in the industrialised world.

In 2008, it was the subprime crisis, and today it is the sovereign debt crisis, focused for the moment in Europe.

Glenn Stevens’s nonchalance about the Greek debt crisis at the recent parliamentary hearings was stunning.

It had been no more than a marginal influence on the RBA’s decision to hold rates steady in February, he said.

“There is a bit of uncertainty about how all of that is going to be resolved. I do not think, myself, at this point, that those issues will directly present a serious problem for Australia. After all, it is a sovereign debt issue for Europe.”

Europe still represents about a quarter of world GDP and its unity and sound finances matter a lot for global financial stability.

US academics Kenneth Rogoff (a former IMF chief economist) and Carmen Reinhart have been among the most influential analysts of the developments of the past two years because of their analysis of crashes in 66 countries stretching back two centuries. “Serial default remains the norm,” they say.

There is often a lag of some years, leading policymakers to believe “this time it is different”.

Rogoff, who did predict the GFC, is currently warning that China is in a bubble, one that he believes will burst within ten years. If so, then so much for the belief that Australia is on the verge of a new China-fuelled mining boom.

Glenn Stevens appears to be in a bubble of his own, oblivious to the ever-growing warnings from leading international economists about the Eurozone crisis, and/or a new Asia Crisis triggered by the inevitable bust of China’s real estate bubble.

A man who apparently does not learn from his epic failures of the past, should no longer be permitted to retain such enormous power over the economy, and the lives of 22 million Australian citizens.

Soros: ‘Very Cautious’ On China

27 Feb

International financier George Soros has confirmed concerns expressed by leading international economists on the possibility that the Chinese economy is in a “bubble”:

A hard landing for Chinese markets could come, Soros said, due to a significant increase in supply offset by falling demand. China’s regulatory authorities have managed the situation well thus far, he said, but he’s concerned about how various countries are maneuvering in the face of global imbalances…

I’m very cautious, until the economy cools off a little“…

“The overheating, the inflation, the harsh policy tightening is happening right now and it will continue to happen until the economy cools off. And with this explosion of credit, there are bound to be non-performing loans in due course. The extent depends on whether it is a hard landing or soft landing…”

Speaking about the global economic recovery, Soros commented:

“The recovery has been anemic; this was to be expected. But now, the increasing concern about rising sovereign debt is working against continued stimulus. And that increases the threat of a double dip. The rising concerns on sovereign debt increases the prospect of a double dip.”

Asked whether he thought that the major economies have taken sufficient action to address fundamental problems of the world economy in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, such as global imbalances, Soros responded:

No. The global imbalances have continued to increase. Notably, China continues to run a very big current account surplus. That is one reason why an appreciation of the renminbi would be desirable. The task of correcting those imbalances hasn’t yet begun to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in Australia all our economic leaders remain convinced of a China-funded economic miracle, confidently expecting that the Chinese economy will give us up to 4 more decades of “unprecedented prosperity”.

It seems only Barnaby Joyce has his head out of the sand.

Henry Sees Cyclical Angel Descending

26 Feb

As recently as October 2009, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry predicted a Golden Age for the Australian economy, that will “stretch to 2050”:

“While the global financial crisis has taken some of the heat out of our export prices, we should get used to the idea that we could have structurally higher terms of trade for some time, possibly for several decades,” he said.

In a speech at the Brisbane University of Technology, Henry said Australia’s population will grow as the mining boom, fuelled by demand from China and India, will continue to bring in immigrant workers. Handled correctly, he said, this could provide a “period of unprecedented prosperity”.

Henry pointed to growth in several Asian countries, which he said will give a boost to the mining boom that will see it last for several more decades into 2050.

Just one week ago, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens‘ colleague, Assistant Governor Philip Lowe, also had a vision of the cyclical angel returning from the heavens:

I am quite optimistic that story has some decades to run and that underlies much of the positives for the Australian economy,” Lowe told an economic development forum in Sydney.

“It is going to be a good 20 years for China and us,” he said.

And only 3 days ago, RBA Deputy Governor Rick Battelino too, joined in the angel chorus:

Mr Battellino was uncertain about how long the current boom would last, but said past booms had lasted around 15 years.

“On this occasion, the growth potential of countries such as China and India suggests that the expansion in resource demand could continue for an extended period, though this will depend at least to some extent on the economic management skills of the authorities in these countries, not to mention our own,” he said.

Illustration - nicholsoncartoons.com.au

Reassuring stuff. Or is it?

Three days ago, former Morgan Stanley chief Asia economist Andy Xie and hedge fund manager James Chanos saw something rather different:

“There’s a monumental property bubble and fixed-asset investment bubble that China has underway right now,” Chanos said. “And deflating that gently will be difficult at best.”

A glut of factories in China is “wreaking far-reaching damage on the global economy,” stoking trade tensions and raising the risk of bad loans, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in November.

The risks are so great that a decade of little or no growth, as Japan experienced in the 1990s, can’t be dismissed, said Patrick Chovanec, an associate professor in the School of Economics and Management at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

And two days ago, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Professor Ken Rogoff, also failed to see a Chinese cyclical angel descending. He saw the angel of doom:

China’s economic growth will plunge to as low as 2 percent following the collapse of a “debt- fueled bubble” within 10 years, sparking a regional recession, according to Harvard University Professor Ken Rogoff.

“We would learn just how important China is when that happens. It would cause a recession everywhere surrounding” the country, including Japan and South Korea, and be “horrible” for Latin American commodity exporters, he said.

Rogoff was one of very few economists who predicted the GFC.

Ken Henry, and all the boffins at the RBA… did not.

Stevens – Australia’s Most Useless?

26 Feb

Illustration - John Shakespeare

In recent days the mainstream media have made much of Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens’ response to comments made by Barnaby Joyce concerning Australia’s rising debt levels:

‘‘There has never been an event of sovereign default by Australia,’’ Mr Stevens told a parliamentary hearing in Canberra. ‘‘I very much doubt there ever will be.’’

Now, don’t you feel reassured? After all, if the esteemed Governor of the RBA is not worried, then why should you be?

Think again. This is the same “expert” who utterly failed to foresee any warning signs of the impending Global Financial Crisis. Indeed, Stevens kept raising interest rates right into the teeth of the GFC, prompting this scathing response from the Daily Telegraph:

The nation’s most powerful economic figure has committed a double betrayal of working families – urging big banks to ignore the RBA’s official interest rate and saying taxes could be increased.

For the second time in a fortnight, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has gone public to encourage the biggest lenders to go beyond the current official interest rate and slug mortgagees at a higher rate.

His controversial comments effectively render him useless – because it is a key part of his job as Reserve Bank governor to use official interest rates as a guide for the major banks as to what they should charge on mortgages.

“I can’t tell you at what point rates will come down. I can’t promise they won’t rise. I can’t tell you that, mainly because I don’t know,” Mr Stevens said yesterday.

Note the date of those comments by Stevens. April 4, 2008. His last interest rate rise prior to the GFC, was on March 4, 2008, taking the official cash rate to 7.25%.

Less than 2 weeks after Stevens had again raised Australia’s interest rates, US banking giant Bear Stearns collapsed.

Less than 6 months later, all hell broke loose with the collapse of Lehman Brothers… the biggest corporate collapse in US history.

From September 2008, Stevens had to chainsaw 400 basis points (4%) off the cash rate, in a frantic bid to save the Australian economy from imploding.

Remember that, for next time you hear the media again twisting Stevens words into an alleged putdown of Barnaby Joyce’s concerns.

Don’t Mention the Debt

25 Feb

Even 12 months ago – before the Rudd Government began its massive second round of “stimulus” spending on school halls and insulation – noone wanted to talk about our debt problem:

Our overseas borrowing is the great unspoken. It is the one subject assiduously avoided in public by Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Ken Henry, APRA, the Reserve Bank and the big banks. They probably even gloss over the matter when chatting privately among themselves.

It is Australia’s Ponzi scheme. Bernie Madoff goes to Bondi. We keep getting those foreign dollars in while sending plenty out, but never quite as much, hoping no one will blow the whistle lest the whole game end.

Read the full article in the Feb 19, 2009 Sydney Morning Herald.

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