Australia faces headwinds

Australian wage rate growth, on the other hand, is declining. is in a worse position, with a dramatic fall in investment following the mining boom.

Australia: Wage Price Index

Source: RBA & ABS

As is inflation.

Australia: Inflation

Source: RBA & ABS

Growth in Household Disposable Income and Consumption.

Australia: Household Income and Consumption

Source: RBA & ABS

And Banks return on shareholders equity.

Australia: Banks Return on Equity

Source: RBA & APRA

But not Housing.

Australia: Banks Return on Equity

Source: RBA, ABS, APM, CoreLogic & Residex

At least not yet.

Falling house prices would complete the feedback loop, shrinking household incomes, consumption and banks ROE.

Platinum founder warns on property “act of faith”

ScreenHunter_3505 Jul. 29 08.50

By Leith van Onselen

The founder of Platinum Asset Management, billionaire investor Kerr Neilson, has released an interesting report warning about Australia’s frothy house price valuations and the risks of a correction once “conditions change, [and] a lot of the assumptions are found wanting”.

The report highlights four “facts” about Australian housing:

1. Returns from housing investment are often exaggerated and flattered by inflation.
2. Holding costs of rates, local taxes and repairs are estimated to absorb about half of current rental yields.
3. Long-term values are determined by affordability (wages + interest rates).
4. To be optimistic about residential property prices rising in general much faster than inflation is a supreme act of faith.

It then goes on to examine each of these facts.

On returns, the report notes that “the rise in the price of an average home in Australia…[has] been about 7% a year since 1986. In dollar terms, the average existing house has risen in value by 6.3 times over the last 27 years. No wonder most people love the housing market!”

But rental returns have gotten progressively poor:

…we earn a starting yield of say 4% on a rented-out home or if you live in it, the equivalent to what you do not have to pay in rent. But again, looking at the Bureau of Statistics numbers, they calculate that your annual outgoings on a property are around 2%. This takes the shape of repairs and maintenance, rates and taxes, and other fees. This therefore reduces your rental return to 2%, and what if it is vacant from time to time?

And the prospect for future solid capital growth is low due to poor affordability:

…the last 20 or so years has been exceptional. Australian wages have grown pretty consistently at just under 3% a year since 1994 – that is an increase of about 1% a year in real terms.

Affordability is what sets house prices and this has two components: what you earn and the cost of the monthly mortgage payment (interest rates).

…even though interest rates have progressively dropped, interest payments today absorb 9% of the average income, having earlier been only 6% of disposable income.

ScreenHunter_3506 Jul. 29 09.21

Today, houses cost over four times the average household’s yearly disposable income. At the beginning of the 1990s, this ratio was only about three times household incomes. As the chart over shows, this looks like the peak.

ScreenHunter_3507 Jul. 29 09.22

Finally, the report argues that for Australian home prices to significantly outpace inflation over the next ten years, as they have in the past, “would require a remarkable set of circumstances”, namely a combination of:

1. Continuing low or lower interest rates.
2. Willingness to live with more debt.
3. Household income being bolstered by greater participation in the income earning workforce.
4. Average wages growing faster than the CPI.

The last point is improbable seeing that wages and the CPI have a very stable relationship, while the other points are not very likely.

Reproduced with kind permission from Macrobusiness.

Household Debt to Income ratio

Barry Ritholz highlights the alarming debt to income ratio for Canada compared to the USA:
Household Debt to Income ratio

How does Australia compare?
Australian Household Debt to Income ratio
Australian household debt to income is similar to Canada’s. There has been discussion recently about whether Australia is in a housing bubble. As Anna Schwartz (joint author of A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 with Milton Friedman) pointed out: there is only one kind of bubble and that is a debt bubble. It may manifest through rising real estate, stock or other asset prices, but the underlying driver is the same: a rapid expansion of the money supply through easy credit.

Australia & NZ: Housing wealth to disposable income

Leith van Onselen posts this chart comparing housing wealth to disposable income. Australia and New Zealand are the worst offenders, with ratios close to 5:1, while the US never reached 3:1 even at its sub-prime peak.

Housing wealth to disposable income

Canadian housing bubble looks ripe for popping | Toronto Star

Adam Peterson writes the Canadian housing bubble is headed for a “slow-motion” crash:

My gravest concern is that Canada is fast approaching a 5:1 home-price-to-income ratio, a benchmark achieved by the U.S. at the peak in 2006. Since the correction, the U.S. ratio now hovers at approximately 3:1.

To compound the problem, household debt in Canada has breached 150 per cent of income and continues in the wrong direction; households are not cushioned against a blow.

Australian household debt is also hovering around 150% of disposable income.

Australian household debt to disposable income

While the price-to-income ratio varies between 4 and more than 6 depending on whether you use national averages or median data.
Australian house price-to-income ratio

Read more at Canadian housing bubble looks ripe for popping | Toronto Star.

Unsaving the U.S. economy | MacroScope

Gabriel Burin writes that the U.S. savings rate sank last month to its lowest since November.

“Households were only able to boost consumption in the third quarter by dipping into their savings,” said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, after the Commerce Department release. “Faced with the prospect of major tax hikes in the New Year, however, they will soon become more cautious”……..

via Unsaving the U.S. economy | MacroScope.