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Record increase in South Australian homesSlowest growth in NSW homes in 4 yearsHome prices; Consumer sentiment; Reserve Bank Board minutes
Home prices: The Bureau of Statistics reports that Australian home prices fell by 0.7 per cent in the March quarter to stand 2.0 per cent higher over the year – the weakest annual growth rate since September 2012.
Record homes in South Australia: At the end of March there were 40,600 more homes than at the end of December across Australia. The number of homes in South Australia increased by 2,700 to 776,500 in the March quarter – the largest increase since the data series began in December 2011. However, the number of homes in NSW increased by 7,800 to 3,096,900 in the March quarter – the smallest increase in 4 years.
Consumer confidence: The weekly ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating fell by 0.7 per cent to 122.1. Confidence is up by 9.2 per cent over the year and above the average of 113.9 since 2014 and average of 112.9 since 1990. Views on family finances are the best in 18 months at 132.5.
Reserve Bank Board minutes: The minutes from the June 5 Board meeting were issued. The Board’s neutral policy bias remains intact with a period of record low interest rate stability ahead for the foreseeable future. It noted that “recent data had been consistent with the Bank’s central forecast for GDP growth to pick up to be above 3 per cent by the end of 2018.”
What does it all mean?
The rebalancing of the Aussie housing market continues. Today’s release from the Bureau of Statistics has been superseded by more timely monthly data issued on home prices by property analytics company, CoreLogic.
The Sydney and Melbourne markets have both slowed with prices falling in both cities. Data from CoreLogic confirms that national home prices have fallen by 0.4 per cent over the year to May – the first annual fall since October 2012.
But it’s not all bad news. Perth and Darwin home prices appear to have bottomed and modest price appreciation has been recorded in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra over the three months to May. And Hobart’s economic renaissance and strong population growth is pushing-up home prices.
Regional areas are also stand-out performers. The Melbourne and Sydney commuter belts of Geelong, Ballarat, Southern Highlands and Newcastle have recorded annual growth in property prices of 5-10 per cent to May.
The Reserve Bank is continuing to monitor developments, particularly around slowing housing credit growth, elevated household debt and the potential for tighter bank lending standards.
And the slowdown in the residential property market has seen the annual growth rate of the number of homes in Australia decelerate to 18-month lows in the March quarter. The stock of NSW homes rose by the slowest amount in four years. But it’s a different story in South Australia. The number of homes grew by the most on record during the March quarter.
What do the figures show?Residential property prices
The Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its Residential Property Price indexes for the March quarter.
“The price index for residential properties for the weighted average of the eight capital cities fell 0.7 per cent in the March quarter 2018. The index rose 2.0 per cent through the year to the March quarter 2018.
The capital city residential property price indexes fell in Sydney (-1.2 per cent), Melbourne (-0.6 per cent), Perth (- 0.9 per cent), Brisbane (-0.6 per cent) and Darwin (-1.1 per cent) and rose in Hobart (+4.3 per cent), Adelaide (+0.5 per cent) and Canberra (+0.9 per cent).
Annually, residential property prices rose in Hobart (+14.1 per cent), Melbourne (+6.2 per cent), Canberra (+3.8 per cent), Adelaide (+2.6 per cent) and Brisbane (+1.6 per cent) and fell in Darwin (-6.5 per cent), Perth (-1.5 per cent) and Sydney (-0.5 per cent).
“The total value of residential dwellings in Australia was $6,913,636.6 million at the end of the March quarter 2018, falling $22,498.3 million over the quarter.”
“The mean price of residential dwellings fell $5,100 to $687,700 and the number of residential dwellings rose by 40,600 to 10,052,600 in the March quarter 2018.”
CommSec estimates that the number of people per home increased from 2.47 in the December quarter to 2.48 in the March quarter.
The number of homes in South Australia increased by 2,700 to 776,500 in the March quarter – the largest increase since the data series began in December 2011.
The number of homes in NSW rose by just 7,800 in the March quarter – the smallest lift in 4 years.
Consumer Sentiment
The weekly ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating fell by 0.7 per cent to 122.1. Confidence is up by 9.2 per cent over the year and above the average of 113.9 since 2014 and average of 112.9 since 1990.
Three components of the index decreased last week:
* The estimate of family finances compared with a year ago was down from +9.1 to +3.8;* The estimate of family finances over the next year was up from +28.5 to +32.5;* Economic conditions over the next 12 months was down from +15.3 to +10.9;* Economic conditions over the next 5 years was down from +18.0 to +17.0;
The measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item was up from +44.0 to +46.3.
The measure of inflation expectations two years ahead increased to 4.8 per cent – the equal highest level in 2½ years – up from 4.4 per cent in the previous week.
Reserve Bank March Board minutes:
Last paragraph: “The low level of interest rates was continuing to support the Australian economy. Further progress in the period ahead in reducing unemployment and returning inflation to the target was therefore expected, although this progress was likely to be gradual.”
On the labour market: “Forward-looking indicators of labour demand had continued to point to employment growth increasing to above-average rates in coming months.. The ratio of job vacancies to the number of unemployed workers had remained well below levels seen a decade earlier, which also signalled spare capacity in the labour market.”
On demographics: “The composition of net overseas migration had affected the age structure of the population. As a result, Australia’s median age and old-age dependency ratios were projected to increase by less than those of other advanced economies, despite a relatively high life expectancy. This would make Australia one of the youngest populations within this group of countries.”
On inflation and wages growth: “Inflation remained low and was likely to remain so for some time, reflecting slow growth in labour costs and strong competition in the retail sector.However, a gradual pick-up in inflation to be above 2 per cent was still expected as the economy strengthens and wages growth increases.”
What is the importance of the economic data?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides quarterly data on residential prices. The figures provide further perspectives on the state of the housing purchase sector.
The ANZ/Roy Morgan weekly survey of consumer confidence closely tracks the monthly Westpac/Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index but the former measure is a timelier assessment of consumer attitudes and is now closely tracked by the Reserve Bank.
The Reserve Bank releases minutes of its monthly Board meeting a fortnight after the event. The minutes give a guide to Reserve Bank thinking on interest rate settings.
What are the implications for interest rates and investors?
The Reserve Bank remains patient. According to the Board, the slowdown in the Aussie housing market through macroprudential measures and tighter credit standards “has been helpful in containing the build-up of risk on household balance sheets”. And policy makers expect the “tightening [of lending standards] to be modest”.
While there are a combination of reasons for slowing property prices in Sydney and Melbourne, including tighter government and lender restrictions on foreign and interest-only investment, the overall stock of homes being built in NSW is growing at a slower rate. Modest additions to supply combined with strong jobs growth, firm population growth and record low interest rates should cushion against a significant market downturn. The Reserve Bank stressed in its minutes that “Information from the Bank’s liaison program suggested that demand for detached houses had remained strong, while off-the-plan apartment sales had slowed considerably as a result of weaker investor and foreign demand.”
Nevertheless, household consumption remains a key uncertainty for the monetary policy outlook. The recent uplift in the Aussie sharemarket is timely as it appears that wealth accumulation from residential housing has peaked for now.
Consumer confidence is just below the 4-year highs last seen in January. Petrol prices have fallen over the past two weeks, while winter department store sales, solid economic growth data and possible personal tax cuts have lifted spirits. Jobs growth is still strong, but goods prices remain low. Interest rates won’t lift in the near-term.
And the Aussie sharemarket is lifting after a period of relative underperformance to its global peers. The ASX200 index is now up by 1.0 per cent year-to-date, broadly in-line with the US Dow Jones index. So it’s little wonder that Aussie household views on family finances are the best in 18 months. Total returns from shares should continue to outperform residential property.
CommSec expects interest rates to be unchanged until at least February 2019.
Published by Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist, CommSec