In case you missed it, Deloitte’s Chris Richardson, one of the country’s highly respected economists (who’s not always positive) has given our economy going forward a nice thumbs up.
He sees a falling budget deficit for the Government, better economic growth and wages starting to rise.
“Until now, the good news has been concentrated on the relatively small number of people gaining jobs,” he said. “The next phase will make the average punter happier.” (The Age)
But on the day he said all this, along came a weak inflation reading that has left a lot of economists reiterating that interest rates won’t rise until late 2019!
If these guys are right, then that means:
• Those with mortgages can be relaxed for nearly 18 months!
• Those media scaremongers won’t be able to drag out their mortgage stress stories for 18 months, but they probably will try it on a quiet news day!
• Our economy won’t be as strong as Chris, the Reserve Bank, the Government and yours truly expects!
• And I’m cheesed off, if these guys are right.
The inflation number we got was “soft”, as economists love to say. In official eco-speak, the Consumer Price Index rose by 0.4% in the March quarter, which was below expectations for a lift of 0.5%. The annual rate of inflation remained at 1.9%.
The Reserve Bank wants inflation inside the 2%-3% band and closer to 3% than 2%, so they can assume the economy is really rocking and then they could raise interest rates.
And interest rates might be our problem and the Reserve Bank might have been wrong and Dr. John ‘Fightback!’ Hewson looks like he was right.
Let me take you down memory lane to explain my rates relationship with the Reserve Bank.
In August 2016, the RBA’s Glenn Stevens took the cash rate down to 1.5% and it has stayed there since. For a year or so beforehand, I was quite rude on my TV show, on radio and in my writings to a guy I like in Stevens but I just thought his rate-cut caution was going to make economic growth, job creation and wage rises too hard.
My real roasting of the RBA was between 2012 and 2014, when the cash rate was around 4%, while the Yanks were heading towards zero! But by 2014, we were close to 2% but our delayed recovery and the mining boom de-booming meant the cash rate had to go to 1.5%.
I felt bad about my RBA roasting but I thought it was for a good cause but at 1.5% I packed away my cudgels and made peace with the Big Bank.
However Dr. Hewson would come on my show and suggest we might need 1% or even lower!
John has always been an extremist, as his 15% GST, which killed his Prime Ministerial dreams in the 1993 election, proves.
When he would advance that case, I redirected my old RBA rudeness to him but after what I saw and then thought this morning, maybe I owe him an apology.
Watching US business TV I saw what interest rates the Yanks have to deal with, compared to us.
They can get a 30-year fixed rate for 4.5% and that’s after a recent 0.7% rise! And remember, these guys in the USA can walk away from their loans.
But what caught my eye were average car loans at 4.5% after 0.7% rise. It made me check our local rates, which, on a comparison or real rate, vary from 6% to 8-10%!
With US rates so low, it’s no surprise why the US economy is seen to be doing better than us and why job creation has been so strong there, compared to us until last year.
I reckon our lowered rates are starting to help, and it’s why we created around 400,000 jobs last year. Consumer confidence started rising from September last year and while wages haven’t really spiked strongly yet, more and more economists, like Chris Richardson, are starting to tip that a pick up in pay is not far away.
Doc Hewson always argued the comparison gap in rates for Oz to USA was too big. Our slow comeback with the overall economy shows he was right.
Of course, one reason the RBA didn’t drop the cash rate to 1% was because the home loan rate would have been around 3% and we might have seen 2 point something percentage home loan rates, which might have created the bubble that some alarmists were warning us about.
One of the reasons why the RBA didn’t want to play ‘follow the leader’ with most countries that took their official rates to zero or less was because they all had recessions. We didn’t have one.
So I guess it’s fair to argue that we might not feel as economically successful as economies like the USA right now but over the decade since the GFC, on average, you’ve been miles better off being an Aussie, economically, than a Yank, a Pom, a European or an Asian!
That’s not discrimination and Aussie jingoism but simply economics. That said, a 1% cash rate would have created a faster growing economy, so the Doc was probably right but I could’ve blamed him for the bubbles we might have seen in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets.
On the other hand, maybe the Perth, Darwin and Brisbane house prices might not have had such a tough time.
That would have created more confident consumers and, ultimately, a stronger economy earlier, creating higher inflation and then rising interest rates.
Economics has always been a blame game!