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Wednesday, 19 September

04:28

Canberra vacancy rate falls again Pete Wargent Daily Blog

Canberra tightens again

You expect a bit of chirp if you write about real estate.

Nobody can disagree that the financialisation of shelter is lamentable, and sometimes it's crazy how housing prices and auction clearance rates are reported like footie results.

However, this is only going to get worse.

It's inevitable because long-term migration to Australia is at a record high, yet the government supplies almost no new dwelling stock for the new renters. 

And if the prospective returns are poor, landlords won't invest - it's that simple. 

A policy decision was taken years ago that landlords would have to supply the rental stock, although there was a temporary flicker of activity during the financial crisis Rudd stimulus when the government actually built some public housing. 


A bit of chirp is one thing but strangely nothing generates more vitriol than discussion about land tax.

My view has occasionally been that excessively high land tax in the ACT will lead incumbent investors to sell, while new property investors will look elsewhere (they could literally hop over the border into 'Quangers' - and in fact this is happening, with investor loan finance in Canberra imploding). 

The counter-argument is that properties don't go anywhere and someone has to buy them - which is true, but of course it's the net flow of rentals versus renters that matters. 

Whatever, I'll just report the numbers.

After all, it could take a full cycle for the full impacts to be revealed - for example, higher rents...

02:40

Aussie housing prices roll over in FY2018 (Chartfest) Pete Wargent Daily Blog

Aussie housing rollover

Aussie dwelling prices declined by 0.6 per cent over the year to June 2018 as the market grappled with tighter lending standards, together with a sweeping range of measures implemented to cool activity (from foreign buyer duties, to restrictions on investment and interest-only loans, reduced self-managed super fund lending for residential property, changes to deductibility of expenses, and more). 

Today I'll run through how some of the various capital city markets have been faring and why in half a dozen charts.

Stock value down

First up, the total value of dwelling stock was $6.93 trillion at the end of the 2018 financial year, only slightly up from $6.82 trillion a year earlier (click the charts to expand).


Between June 2017 and June 2018 the 8 capital city weighted average resi price index was down by 0.6 per cent. 


The 60 Minutes program garnered a lot of attention this week with its now-traditional 'looming housing crisis' expos, with the segment somewhat unjustly taking each analyst in turn and clipping out everything but their doom case scenarios (each of the three main contributors has since protested that at least in part their views were misrepresented...I'm shocked, lol).

Admittedly I haven't watched it, and don't intend to....

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Tuesday, 18 September

22:18

What should Robert Wiblin ask Tyler Cowen? "IndyWatch Feed Economics"

Robert will be interviewing me later this week, as an installment of Conversations with Tyler, just as Patrick Collison once interviewed me a while back.  At least part of the interview will focus on my forthcoming book Stubborn Attachments: A Vision of a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals.  (And we will do 2.5 hours, a Robert specialty!)  Here is part of Roberts bio:

I studied both genetics and economics at the Australian National University (ANU), graduated top of my class and was named Young Alumnus of the Year in 2015.

I worked as a research economist in various Australian Government agencies including the Treasury and Productivity Commission.

I then moved to Oxford in the UK to work at the Centre for Effective Altruism, first as Research Director and then Executive Director.

I then became Research Director for 80,000 Hours. In 2015 the project went through Y Combinator, and in 2016 we moved from Oxford to Berkeley, California in order to grow more quickly.

He is renowned for his thorough preparation and he runs a very good podcast of his own.  So what should he ask me?

The post What should Robert Wiblin ask Tyler Cowen? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

17:10

Progressive groups in Australia captured by neoliberal ideology Bill Mitchell Modern Monetary Theory

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), which represents income support recipients, in conjunction with Jobs Australia (a peak body for the not-for-profit job services providers) released a report last week (September 14, 2018) Faces of Unemployment which was a welcome return to a focus on joblessness and the need to provide more jobs, rather than the lame faux-progressive retreat to UBI advocacy that has dominated the policy debate for the last few years. However, once you start reading the analysis you realise that these supposedly progressive organisations offer the same old neoliberal remedies to solving poverty and unemployment. They want: Compulsory, assisted job search, which is just coercion of jobless workers by Australias privatised job services industry that has an appalling record; 2. Wage subsidies in the private sector and Public sector wage subsidies which never produce effective sustainable outcomes of sufficient magnitude to be called a solution; and vocational training, which is the same old put workers on the training treadmill and shuffle the jobless queue. This reinforces the theme I focus on a lot that the progressive elements in our society have become captured by the neoliberal mainstream and cannot think outside that frame. There is actually no mention or analysis of public sector job creation programs in the entire ACOSS/JA Report. Sadly, groups like ACOSS have a major public voice and the Federal government sees their advocacy as non-threatening because the type of policies they advocate are mainstream neoliberal and just more of what the Government, itself, thinks are viable. The irony (or disgrace) is that if these policies were effective then the ACOSS/JA Report would not have had to be written. Just imagine what they could have written about the Faces of Unemployment if a Job Guarantee program effectively wiped unemployment out. It would become a very short story of workers moving between jobs.

I have commented several times on the parlous income support schemes in Australia that have rendered recipients in an increasing state of poverty as a deliberate ploy by government to create a desperate underclass.

We should also never forget that the unemployed (apart from those moving between jobs) are without jobs because the government has chosen not to use its fiscal capacity to cover the spending gap left my non-government spending decisions.

Mass unemployment is always a policy choice by governemnt. It can always ensure there is full employment by offering an unconditional job opportunity to anyone who desires to work but is currently unable to find a job elsewere.

I have previously considered the state of poverty among the unemployed...

12:30

Dont Miss the Signs of Another Meltdown Daily Reckoning Australia

If youve ever lived through a life-threatening emergency whether a car crash, train wreck or a steep fall (hopefully not) you have noticed that time seems to slow down.

You witness your personal jeopardy in slow motion. A memorable example of this is the film The Matrix, in which the hero, Neo, could dodge bullets since time moved in slow motion for him.

According to the best science, time does not actually slow down for those in jeopardy, nor do their perceptions slow down. What happens is that the stress and novelty of the experience causes the brain to create extra layers of memory, a saturation effect, compared with everyday experiences.

According to researcher David Eagleman, The more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took. So yes, time does seem to slow down in a crisis, but its a cognitive illusion.

That slowing down effect is important to bear in mind as we encounter the 20th anniversary of the Russia-LTCM financial crisis of September 1998 (28 September 1998) and the 10th anniversary of the Lehman-AIG financial crisis of September 2008 (15 September 2008).

For investors, those events were the financial equivalent of falling off a tall building or being strapped in during a plane crash. If you lived through them, youll recall some hours that seemed like days and days that seemed like weeks.

Of course, investors recall where they were and what they did during the absolute height of the panics.

Most investors may not be aware that these peak panic moments had actually been playing out for over 15 months in both cases. Investors who closely observed the early signs of trouble had ample time to get out of the way of the panic itself.

A financial crisis doesnt happen overnight

In fact, most investors were oblivious to the early warnings. That 15-month build-up was a real slow-motion event, not an illusion.

The September 1998 Russia-LTCM crisis began in June 1997, 15 months earlier, when Thailand devalued its currency and closed its capital account.

For several years, Thailand had maintained a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar.

Money poured into Thai real estate and resorts to earn high yields with an exchange rate guarantee. When some investors started to pull their money out, a run on the bank emerged.

Thailand could not make good on its US dollar guarantee and devalued, causing massive losses for US investors.

From there the panic spread to Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and other nations. There was literally blood in the streets as some were killed in money riots.

Markets calmed down that winter, but the contagion returned in the summer of 1998.

In August, Russia defaulted on its bonds, devalued its currency and closed its capital account.

That led to a global liquidity crisis, which caused massive losses at hedge fund Lon...

08:28

Record permanent & long-term arrivals to Australia Pete Wargent Daily Blog

Record arrivals to Australia

Some 101,900 permanent and long-term arrivals into Australia in July 2018.

That's the third individual month where the figure has exceeded 100,000 - all of which were in the past 18 months - and it sends long-term permanent and long-term immigration to a new record high of +818,430 over the year to July.


Tighter lending standards and mortgage scrutiny may have cooled some of Australia's housing markets, but the underlying demand for housing hasn't cooled. 

In fact, it's either now rising to or at record highs.

Record tourism too

Tourism and higher education is also contributing to a booming headcount, with record high short-term arrivals over the year to July 2018.

In total some 9.1 million short-term arrivals graced Australian shores over the 12 months to July.

In seasonally adjusted terms a massive 126,000 visitors dropped by from China in July, which is the highest ever seasonally adjusted figure for Chinese visitors (in original or unadjusted terms there are more visitors over Lunar New Year). 

The China story is huge, but it's really an Asian visitors boom.


There was a record high for international student arrivals over the year to July.

...

01:55

North Queensland is Becoming a Hub of BCH Accepting Businesses "IndyWatch Feed Crypto"

The northern part of the Australian state, Queensland, is bustling with cryptocurrency energy. The region is extremely passionate towards one specific decentralized peer-to-peer electronic currency bitcoin cash (BCH). 

Also Read: Netherlands Largest Bank ING Group Fined $900M for Money Laundering

North Queensland Bitcoin Cash Merchant Adoption Expanded 52% Last Month

North Queensland is Becoming a Hub of BCH Accepting BusinessesOver the last few months, a few bitcoin cash proponents have been spreading a lot of BCH adoption in the North Queensland region in Australia. North Queensland is a very large area with its own distinctive regional character within the massive state of Queensland. Anyone who frequents the Reddit forum r/btc, have probably noticed many posts showing BCH adoption taking place in the region. 

North Queensland has its own Bitcoin Cash meetup, its home to the countrys first BCH-only automated teller machine, and right now the area has a lot of BCH accepting merchants. This week, using the mobile application...

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Monday, 17 September

19:32

Precarious private balance sheets driven by fiscal austerity is the problem Bill Mitchell Modern Monetary Theory

The media has been giving a lot of attention in the last week to the 10-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers crash which occurred on September 15, 2008 and marked the realisation, after months of denial, that there was a financial crisis underway. Lots of articles have been published recently about what we have learned from this historical episode. I thought that the Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi (September 13, 2018) Ten Years After the Crash, Weve Learned Nothing pretty much summed it up. We have learned very little. Commentators still construct the crisis as a sovereign debt problem and demand that governments reduce fiscal deficits to give them space to defend the economy in the next crisis. They are also noting that the balance sheets of the non-government sector components households and firms are looking rather precarious. They also tie that in with flat wages growth and a run down in household saving. But the link between the fiscal data and the non-government borrowing data is never made. So we are moving headlong into the next crisis with very little understanding of the relationship between government and non-government. And we are increasingly relying on private sector debt buildup to fund growth as governments retreat. Everything about that is wrong.

The recently published book Financial Exposure: Carl Levins Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse (Palgrave Macmillan) by Elise J. Bean is worth reading. Elise Bean was an investigative lawyer for the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI).

The book recounts the workings of the PSI.

We read that the PSI has:

faced down corrupt bankers, arrogant executives, and sleazy lawyers. Wed confronted tax dodgers of all stripes, from billionaires to multinationals. Wed interviewed crooks in prison, North Korean representatives, and tax have operatives. Wed protected whistleblowers, championed victims, and defended honest government employees battling abuses. Wed stood up to dirty tricks, assaults on PSIs bipartisanship, and attacks on our bosses.

Never was this environment more loaded than when they started looking into the financial services sector.

The chapter on Deconstructing the Financial Crisis is particularly interesting, given the current attention the decade-anniversary is receiving.

Elise Bean writes that the investigation was the longest, toughest inquiry the PSI under Carl Levin had ever undertaken.

The facts were tangled, the players powerful, and the stakes huge.

She credits the legislative action that led to the Dodd-Frank Act, the most extensiv...

12:00

The Profitable Cracks in the Lithium World Daily Reckoning Australia

Holy moly. All eyes in the small cap mining space will be reading the latest announcement from Kidman Resources Limited [ASX:KDR] today. This could set a new tone for the lithium market for the next six months.

Kidman went into a trading halt last week and shocked everyone. Thats because it may lose the right to develop its Mt Holland lithium project in Western Australia over an obscure issue.

This is a nervy wait if you happen to hold any shares. But anyone in any other lithium play will be on their knees, praying it happens. It would make supply even more tight than it is right now. Theres no sympathy in the market.

What gives, anyway? Mining tenements in Western Australia come with minimum spending obligations. A WA state ruling has now recommended refusing Kidmans request for an exemption from this.

Kidman shares sold down as it prepares to fight ruling

Who cares?

Well, these tenements could be under threat from other companies who claim them because of issues with their former owner. As I write this, the stock is down 13% in the first hour of trading.

Kidmans joint venture partner in Mt Holland is Chilean firm SQM. Management there have already issued a statement, saying this may delay the project.

The decision now lies with the WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Johnston, who can grant the exemption from his office, regardless of the advice hes now received from his bureaucrats.

Odds are on the minister finding a way for the project to go ahead. Theres a lot of capital spending and jobs at risk here. To cut off a major project over this seems insane.

For example, an investment decision is due before 2019 on Kidmans proposed WA lithium hydroxide refinery. This is part of WAs Lithium Valley idea the state is now trying to push.

This kerfuffle does highlight a major issue when it comes to lithium in general. Thats the assumption that all projected mines and projects will come into being and on time, on budget and with no setbacks.

Thats a dangerous assumption. Already weve seen South American expansion plans be brought into question over water rights and now this.

There are a lot of lithium projects staked out in various forms all over the world. But permits, environmental clearance, financing and competent staff dont just appear from nowhere.

Now, we have the situation where battery especially lithium stocks have sold down hard since late last year, based mostly over fears of an oversupply developing. That means cheaper values.

But is it worth the risk scooping some up now?

Well, look at what BMW is signalling right now. Reuters reported just yesterday that the company is planning more deals with mining companies to secure battery materials.

It appears BMW wants to get this sorte...

11:35

Adani on life support John Quiggin

I have a piece in The Guardian under the headline Adanis rail line cut shows project is on life support but still a threat to climate, starting with the observation

The recent announcement by Adani that it will halve the costs of its rail line to the proposed Carmichael coalmine by building a shorter, narrow-gauge line raises an obvious question: if such a massive cost-saving is feasible, why didnt Adani go that way in the first place?

I also address the broader question

If coal is doomed, why has the price recoverd

11:26

Sandpit John Quiggin

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

11:26

Monday Message Board John Quiggin

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link

06:20

Australia Quake, Magnetic Antarctica, Penetrating Fields (Video) "IndyWatch Feed Economics"

Australia Quake, Magnetic Antarctica, Penetrating Fields Video Suspicious Observers Video Source

The post Australia Quake, Magnetic Antarctica, Penetrating Fields (Video) appeared first on The Daily Coin.

Sunday, 16 September

22:00

Block School: Satoshis Vision "IndyWatch Feed Crypto"

BLOCK SCHOOL

Here at NewsBTC we believe that education and knowledge is fundamental to the wider adoption of cryptocurrencies and growth of the blockchain industry. We will be expanding our education section by delving deeper into some of the machinations and technology behind the blocks. Our weekly articles aim to provide a greater understanding of how things work in the crypto ecosystem.

A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System

Following a number of attempts at a digital currency, the most successful being B-money, the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto began working on his whitepaper in 2008. In October of the same year it was published, titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.

The nine page paper outlined the design and justification for a digital currency with the intention of doing what no other attempt could do before: create an anonymous, trustless, decentralized currency.

What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party. Transactions that are computationally impractical to reverse would protect sellers from fraud, and routine escrow mechanisms could easily be implemented to protect buyers.

The proof-of-work protocol was developed from Dai Weis B-money in order to enforce a one CPU one vote policy as outlined by Nakamoto in his now famous paper. Unlike traditional money, Bitcoin was also designed to be a deflationary currency, meaning that there will only be a limited amount of them that will ever exist, specifically 21 million. The reward miners get for finding each new block decreases over time and is halved every 210,000 blocks, approximately every four years. It started off at 50 BTC and is currently 12.5 BTC.

Satoshi was not fond of the modern banking system, particularly fractional-reserve banking whereby a bank accepts deposits, makes loans or investments, but is required to hold reserves equal to only a fraction of its deposit liabilities.

According to Wikipedia, Nakamoto claimed to be a man living in Japan, born on 5 April 1975. The true identity remains a mystery however there has been se...

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