by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s annual inflation rate fell to just 1 pr cent in the June quarter.
That was the weakest annual rise since the June quarter of 1999.
This is shown in the June quarter Consumer Price Index figures just released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The fall in the annual rate – from 1..3 per cent at the end of the March quarter – occurred even though consumer prices rose by 0.4 per cent in the June quarter.
This followed a fall of 0.2 per cent in the March quarter.
The Bureau said the most significant price rises this quarter are in medical and hospital services (+4.2 per cent), automotive fuel (+5.9 per cent) and tobacco (+2.1 per cent).
But it added: “These rises are partially offset by falls in domestic holiday travel and accommodation (–3.7 per cent), motor vehicles (–1.3 per cent) and telecommunication equipment and services (–1.5 per cent).
The bureau also said that the increase of 4.2 per cent for medical and hospital services was driven by the annual increase in Private Health Insurance (PHI) premiums.
These rise on 1 April every year.
It said also that the increase of 5.9 per cent for automotive fuel follows three consecutive quarterly falls.
The rise included increases in unleaded, premium and ethanol fuels.
The bureau noted that world oil prices increased from a 12-year low last quarter.
by Alan Thornhill
The main appointments Mr Shorten made to his new ministry and cabinet include:-
Deputy Opposition Leader and shadow minster for education Tanya Plibersek.
Shadow foreign affairs minister, and Senate Opposition Leader Penny Wong.
Shadow special minister of state and Deputy Senate Opposition Leader, Stephen Conroy
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen
Shadow minister for families and social services Jenny Macklin
Shadow minister for the environment and water Tony Burke
Shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler
Shadow minister for defence Richard Marles
Shadow minister for finance Jim Chalmers
Shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor
Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC
Shadow minister for immigration and border protection Shayne Newman
by Alan Thornhill
Australians planning to buy new homes are still finding them less affordable.
However, a new survey, by the Housing Industry Association confirms that significant differences between the various State capitals persist.
The association’s Affordability Report, published today, showed that affordability overall fell by 3.7 per cent in the June quarter.
It was also 2.1 per cent less favorable than that of the same period a year earlier.
The Association said the capital city housing affordability index fell by 4.3 per cent during the quarter, while regional market index experienced a 1.9 per cent improvement.
“Home price growth moderated in the early part of the year and the HIA Housing Affordability Index showed an improvement in affordability during the March 2016 quarter,” HIA Economist, Geordan Murray said.
“However, in the June quarter dwelling price growth returned and the index reverted to the level we saw at the end of 2015,” he added.
“While there was a decline in the headline index tracking the national picture, there was substantial variation around the country – with substantial differences between states, and also differences between capital city markets and regional markets.”
“The geographic variation in affordability is most evident in the comparison between Melbourne and Perth,” Mr Murray said.
Over the last year, the median dwelling price in Perth has fallen by 4.7 per cent while Melbourne’s has grown by 11.5 per cent,” he added.
This has seen the affordability index for Perth increase by 6.2 per cent over the last year, while the index for Melbourne has fallen by 6.2 per cent.”
“These differences in affordability align with the relative economic performance of these two states.
“The Western Australian economy is navigating the tail end of the mining boom which has seen conditions in the local labour market deteriorate and consequently the rate of population growth has fallen quite sharply.
“ In contrast, Victoria has experienced a healthy level of growth in the labour force and continues to record the strongest rate of population growth in the country,” Mr Murray said.
During the June 2016 quarter, improvements in affordability were observed in three capital cities with the largest improvement in Perth (+3.2 per cent), Darwin (+2.9 per cent) and Hobart (+2.2 per cent).
Affordability worsened in the remaining five capital cities during the March 2016 quarter with the largest decline recorded in Melbourne (-7.4 per cent), followed by Canberra (-5.7 per cent), Sydney (-1.6 per cent), Adelaide (-1.3 per cent), and Brisbane (-1.0 per cent).
by Alan Thornhill
The Reserve Bank is waiting for fresh information, before it decides whether to cut interest rates again, as it did in May.
The bank clarified its position in the minutes from its July 5 Board meeting which it released today.
It said growth in Australia’s major trading partners appeared to have remained slightly below average over recent months.
This was in line with earlier forecasts.
“ GDP growth in China appeared to have eased further, which was continuing to affect economic conditions throughout the Asian region,” the bank added.
It said, too, that: “monetary policy remained very accomodative across the major economies.”
That was expected to remain so given that inflation was below most central banks’ targets.
However, the bank added, this was despite improvements in labour markets leading to full employment in several large advanced economies.
It said: “ GDP growth in China appeared to have eased further, which was continuing to affect economic conditions throughout the Asian region.
“Monetary policy remained very accommodative across the major economies.
And it is expected to remain so given that inflation was below most central banks’ targets, despite improvements in labour markets leading to full employment in several large advanced economies, the bank added
It said: “the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union had led to considerable financial market volatility, which had since settled.
“Financial markets had functioned effectively throughout the episode and borrowing costs for high-quality borrowers remained low.
Any effects of the referendum outcome on UK and global economic activity remained to be seen.
In any event, the referendum result implied a period of uncertainty about the outlook for the United Kingdom and the European Union. In the absence of significant financial dislocation, the staff’s central case was that this uncertainty was expected to have only a modest adverse effect on global economic activity.
Commodity prices had generally increased since the previous meeting. At the time of the present meeting, the Australian dollar (in trade-weighted terms) was around the levels assumed in the forecasts at the time of the May Statement on Monetary Policy
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott has missed out on a place in Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry and Christopher Pyne is to become Australia’s new minister for defence industry.
The Prime Minister has also named Josh Frydenberg Australia’s new environment minister.
This has angered environmentalists who say Mr Frydenberg has always favoured the coal industry over the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Turnbull’s new ministry and cabinet are to be sworn in next week.
The Prime Minister’s decision to leave his predecessor, Mr Abbott, off his front bench comes as no surprise, even though hard right MPs, within the Liberal Party, would have welcomed such a move.
As he promised do before the election, Mr Turnbull generally avoided unecssary changes changes when he announced his new team today.
But Mr Frydenberg will become minister for the environment and energy.
Mr Turnbull said all his previous cabinet ministers had been reappointed although there had been some changes and expansions in their duties.
He said: “Senator Fiona Nash will add Local Government and Territories to her Regional Development and Regional Communications roles.
“Christopher Pyne will be appointed to the new role of Minister for Defence Industry, within the Defence portfolio.
“Mr Pyne will be responsible for overseeing our new Defence Industry Plan that came out of the Defence White Paper.
“This includes the most significant naval shipbuilding program since the Second World War.
“This is a key national economic development role. This program is vitally important for the future of Australian industry and especially advanced manufacturing.
“The Minister for Defence Industry will oversee the Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will itself create 3,600 new direct jobs and thousands more across the supply chain across Australia.
“Beyond shipbuilding, there is a massive Defence Industry Investment and Acquisition Program on land, in the air and inside cyberspace.
“This is a massive step change set out in the Defence White Paper. This investment in Defence Industry, as you know, is a key part of our economic plan.
“It will drive the jobs and the growth in advanced manufacturing, in technology, right across the country. And I’m appointing Christopher to be the Minister to oversee that and ensure that those projects are delivered.
“As I said at the outset, this is a term of government for delivery.
“We will be judged in 2019 by the Australian people as to whether we have delivered on the plans and the programs and the investments that we have promised and set out and described in the lead-up to the election.
Greg Hunt will move from Environment to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, where he will drive the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
“Can I say that Mr Hunt has been an outstanding Environment Minister and he served in that portfolio in Government and indeed, in opposition.
“He has a keen understanding of innovation, he has a keen understanding of science and technology and he will give new leadership to that important portfolio and those important agendas so central to our economic plan.
“Josh Frydenberg will move to the expanded Environment and Energy portfolio combining all the key energy policy areas.
“These include energy security and domestic energy markets for which he has been previously responsible in the current portfolio. Renewable energy targets, clean energy development and financing and emission reduction mechanisms which are part of Environment.
“Senator Matt Canavan will be promoted to Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and I welcome Senator Canavan to the Cabinet in this key economic development role,” Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
Confidence in Australia’s property market has eased since the Reserve Bank cut the nation’s interest rates in May.
A survey that the National Australia Bank published today shows that the easing is particularly pronounced among property professionals.
In the first NAB Residential Property Survey since the RBA cut the official cash rate in May this year, housing market sentiment amongst property professionals softened.
The bank said its residential Property Index fell to +3, from +6 in Q1 2016, to remain below its long term average of +13.
“Sentiment moderated in all states except SA/NT, which rose 19 points,” it added.
New South Wales joined Victoria as the best performing state, followed by Queensland, the bank said.
“Confidence has however improved, with the national index rising to +29 next year, and +36 in two years’ time,” it added.
The bank said its residential Property Survey for Q2 2016 also found that respondents expect Victoria and Queensland to provide the best capital returns over the next one to two years.
“It’s still a mixed picture across Australia, with house price expectations for the next 12 months holding up well in the eastern states whilst staying flat in SA/NT and continuing to fall sharply in WA,” the bank’s Chief Economist Alan Oster said.
The bank said it had also revised its national house price forecasts for 2016 upwards to 5.1 per cent (from 1.5 per cent). Unit price forecasts were revised up to 3.6 per cent for 2016.
“Our upwards revisions in price forecasts reflects the strength in prices to date.
Over the last six months, Sydney and Melbourne prices have increased by an annualised rate of nearly 19 per cent and 12 per cent respectively,” Mr Oster said.
“However, while there is significant amount of uncertainty over the outlook for prices, we expect that this renewed momentum in the housing market is unlikely to be sustained over the longer term.”
Looking out to 2017, NAB forecasts prices to be flat across most capital cities, with falls particularly in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane.
While the declines in Perth largely reflect economic conditions, the falls in Melbourne and Brisbane can be partly attributed to added supply and weaker investor demand.
“NAB is forecasting a much softer residential property market, with 0.5 per cent growth in house prices and nearly 2 per cent decline in unit prices in 2017,” Mr Oster said.
NAB Economics continues to hold the view that residential property prices are unlikely to experience a sharp ‘correction’ without a trigger from a shock that leaves unemployment or interest rates sharply higher.
The Residential Property Survey series also measures foreign buyer activity in the Australian housing market.
Market share of foreign buyers in new Australian housing markets fell for the third straight quarter in a row – to 10.4 per cent.
A sharp fall in foreign buyer activity in Queensland was offset by growth in Victoria and a modest rise in NSW.
Market share of foreign buyers in established markets was unchanged at 7.2 per cent.
About 230 property professional participated in the Q2 Survey, the bank said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government and opposition differed sharply today, after a major ratings agency, Standard and Poors, put Australia’s prized triple A status on negative watch.
It did so citing both the still unresolved Federal election result and high levels of both household and external debt.
The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the agency’s move, “reaffirmed the government’s fiscal direction and the need to “stick to the plan” the Coalition set out in its last budget.”
However the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said it underlined the government’s “fiscal failure” and cast further doubt on its budget projections.
The agency’s warning means that Australia’s AAA credit rating might be slashed in future if there is no improvement in its budgetary performance.
This could increase government borrowing costs and weaken international investment.
Mr Bowen said S&P statement is “sombre reading.”
He said the agency “…calls out the Government on three years of fiscal failure, based on unrealistic Budget revenue forecasts and savings measures that will never pass the Parliament.
“S&P makes it clear that it doesn’t have much faith in the Government’s Budget revenue forecasts – a point Labor has consistently made since the Budget in May,” Mr Bowen added.
However Mr Morrison took a different view.
He said the agency’s warning reinforces the government’s message that Australia must “live within its means”.
He said S&P were clearly concerned about the outcome of the election and that “the pace of fiscal consolidation may be postponed”.
Mr Morrison said it would be irresponsible to increase the deficit over the next few years, because “that increases the debt and you can’t get that money back”.
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by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.
The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.
Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.
The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.
It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.
Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.
Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.
He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.
And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”
“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.
However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.
He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”
“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.
But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?
The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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