China, QE and Housing Key Australian Investor Concerns

A China downturn has moved back into the top spot of Australian credit markets risks over the next 12 months, according to Fitch Ratings‘ 4Q17 fixed-income investor survey, with 42% of respondents ranking a hard landing as a high risk, up from 25% in 2Q17. China replaces a domestic housing market downturn as the top risk, which has dropped to third, while the prospect of quantitative easing (QE) withdrawal has moved into second place.

More investors (43%) expect fundamental credit conditions to deteriorate for financials, rather than improve (16%). Property market exposure is still considered the main threat to bank asset quality, although risks were broadly considered to be rising. Most investors also expect bank lending conditions to tighten over the next year.

However, investors are decidedly more upbeat about the economic outlook. More than 80% believe unemployment will not rise above 6% over the next two years and 37% expect house prices to rise over the next three years, up from 23% in our 2Q17 survey. Consistent with this improving outlook, not one investor anticipates interest rates being cut over the next 12 months.

Our 4Q17 survey shows a continued rise in investors expecting cash to be used for capex by Australian corporates; 67% see this as a significant or moderate use of cash, up from 45% in 2Q17 and 33% in 4Q16. However, shareholder oriented activities remain as the most likely use of cash, consistent with the finding of all eight surveys undertaken over the previous four years.

Australian fixed-income investors believe debt issuance is likely to increase over the next 12 months, and structured finance remains the favoured asset class, with 67% expecting issuance to increase, up from 58% in our 2Q17 survey.

A new question introduced in our 4Q17 survey asked investors about the effect of environmental, social and governance risks on their investments. A 60% majority expect an increased financial impact.

The 4Q17 survey was undertaken in partnership with KangaNews – a specialist publishing house that provides commentary on fixed-income markets in Australia and New Zealand. Findings represent the views of managers of more than AUD500 billion of fixed-income assets, accounting for over three-quarters of Australia’s domestic real-money market.

Fitch’s 4Q17 fixed-income investor survey was conducted between 28 August and 11 September 2017. This survey is unique in the Australian context, reflecting the partners’ strong ties with the local investor community.

Trend unemployment rate lowest in 4 years

The monthly trend unemployment rate has decreased by 0.2 per cent over the past year to 5.5 per cent in September 2017, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. This is the lowest rate seen since March 2013 and reflects the strength in employment growth over the past 12 months.

But it is worth noting the underemployment trend rate (proportion of employed persons) rate still does not look that flash, especially in TAS, SA and WA.

“The trend unemployment rate had been hovering in the range of 5.6 to 5.8 per cent for almost two years, but has now dropped to a four year low of 5.5 per cent,” the Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman, said.

The trend monthly unemployment rate for both males and females dropped to 5.5 per cent, also for the first time since March 2013.

The trend participation rate remained steady at 65.2 per cent. The male participation rate was 70.8 per cent, while the female participation rate reached a record high of 59.9 per cent.

Monthly trend full-time employment increased for the 12th straight month in September 2017. Full-time employment grew by a further 16,000 persons in September, while part-time employment increased by 8,000 persons, underpinning a total increase in employment of 24,000 persons.

“Full-time employment has now increased by around 271,000 persons since September 2016, and makes up the majority of the 335,000 person net increase in employment over the period,” Mr Hockman said.

Over the past year, trend employment increased by 2.8 per cent, which is above the average year-on-year growth over the past 20 years (1.9 per cent).

Over the past year, the states with the strongest annual growth in employment were Queensland (4.1 per cent), Tasmania (3.9 per cent), Victoria (3.1 per cent) and Western Australia (2.9 per cent).

The trend monthly hours worked increased by 3.1 million hours (0.18 per cent), with the annual figure also showing strong growth (2.9 per cent).

Trend series smooth the more volatile seasonally adjusted estimates and provide the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market.

The seasonally adjusted number of persons employed increased by 20,000 in September 2017. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage points to 5.5 per cent and the labour force participation rate remained steady at 65.2 per cent.

Mortgage Arrears Ease A Little In August – S&P

From Business Insider.

According to ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P), the percentage of delinquent housing loans contained in Australian prime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) fell to just 1.10% in August from 1.17% in July.

S&P said arrears decreased in all states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) over the month, with noticeable improvements in Australia’s mining states and territories.

“The Northern Territory (NT) recorded the largest improvement, with arrears declining to 1.63% from 1.98% a month earlier,” S&P said. “In Western Australia, arrears fell to 2.22% in August from a historic high of 2.38% in July.”

The improvement may reflect an improvement in economic conditions in those locations following recent increases in commodity prices, along with a pickup in employment levels.

Improvement was also seen in Australia’s most populous states, where most Australian home loans are domiciled.

“The more populous states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, where around 80% of loan exposures are domiciled, recorded an improvement in arrears in August,” the agency said.

Despite the small increase in the ACT, at 0.63%, arrears still remained at the lowest level across the country.

The broad improvement in home loan arrears over the month can be seen in the map below from S&P.

Source: Standard & Poor’s

 

And this chart and table shows the level of arrears by delinquency duration.

Source: Standard & Poor’s

 

S&P says that “relatively stable employment conditions and low interest rates continue to underpin the low levels of arrears for most Australian RMBS transactions”, adding that it believes “lending standards generally have tightened in many areas since attracting greater regulatory scrutiny beginning in 2015.”

Looking ahead, the ratings agency says that while the prospect of higher mortgage rates could lead to an increase in arrears, particularly among those with high loan-to-value ratios, stronger labour market conditions should keep any potential in check.

“Provided employment conditions remain relatively stable, however, we do not anticipate arrears materially increasing above current levels in the next 12 months,” S&P says.

“Some loans underwritten before 2015 could be more susceptible to higher arrears, particularly interest-only loans with higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios for which no equity has built up during the interest-only period, in our opinion.”

Low Inflation, A Mystery Says The FED

In a speech by FED Chair Yellen, at the Group of 30 International Banking Seminar, she discussed the problem of low inflation, and admitted that their understanding of why it remains so low is imperfect and low inflation may persist.  Perhaps the labour market is really softer than reported; perhaps long term trends will remain lower; perhaps technological and sectorial changes may be impacting. Despite this, she expects the FED rate to rise in the months ahead.

The biggest surprise in the U.S. economy this year has been inflation. Earlier this year, the 12-month change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) reached 2 percent, and core PCE inflation reached 1.9 percent. These readings seemed consistent with the view that inflation had been held down by both the sizable fall in oil prices and the appreciation of the dollar starting around mid-2014, and that these influences have diminished significantly by this year. Accordingly, inflation seemed well on its way to the FOMC’s 2 percent inflation objective on a sustainable basis.

Inflation readings over the past several months have been surprisingly soft, however, and the 12-month change in core PCE prices has fallen to 1.3 percent. The recent softness seems to have been exaggerated by what look like one-off reductions in some categories of prices, especially a large decline in quality-adjusted prices for wireless telephone services. More generally, it is common to see movements in inflation of a few tenths of a percentage point that are hard to explain, and such “surprises” should not really be surprising. My best guess is that these soft readings will not persist, and with the ongoing strengthening of labor markets, I expect inflation to move higher next year. Most of my colleagues on the FOMC agree. In the latest Summary of Economic Projections, my colleagues and I project inflation to move higher next year and to reach 2 percent by 2019.

To be sure, our understanding of the forces that drive inflation is imperfect, and we recognize that this year’s low inflation could reflect something more persistent than is reflected in our baseline projections. The fact that a number of other advanced economies are also experiencing persistently low inflation understandably adds to the sense among many analysts that something more structural may be going on. Let me mention a few possibilities of more fundamental influences.

First, given that estimates of the natural rate of unemployment are so uncertain, it is possible that there is more slack in U.S. labor markets than is commonly recognized, which may be true for some other advanced economies as well. If so, some further tightening in the labor market might be needed to lift inflation back to 2 percent.

Second, some measures of longer-term inflation expectations have edged lower over the past few years in several major economies, and it remains an open question whether these measures might be reflecting a true decline in expectations that is broad enough to be affecting actual inflation outcomes.

Third, our framework for understanding inflation dynamics could be misspecified in some way. For example, global developments–perhaps technological in nature, such as the tremendous growth of online shopping–could be helping to hold down inflation in a persistent way in many countries. Or there could be sector-specific developments–such as the subdued rise in medical prices in the United States in recent years–that are not typically included in aggregate inflation equations but which have contributed to lower inflation. Such global and sectoral developments could continue to be important restraining influences on inflation. Of course, there are also risks that could unexpectedly boost inflation more rapidly than expected, such as resource utilization having a stronger influence when the economy is running closer to full capacity.

In this economic environment, with ongoing improvements in labor market conditions and softness in inflation that is expected to be temporary, the FOMC has continued its policy of gradual policy normalization. As the Committee announced after our September meeting, we are initiating our balance sheet normalization program this month. That program, which was described in the June Addendum to the Policy Normalization Principles and Plans, will gradually scale back our reinvestments of proceeds from maturing Treasury securities and principal payments from agency securities. As a result, our balance sheet will decline gradually and predictably.2 By limiting the volume of securities that private investors will have to absorb as we reduce our holdings, the caps should guard against outsized moves in interest rates and other potential market strains.

Changing the target range for the federal funds rate is our primary means of adjusting the stance of monetary policy. Our balance sheet is not intended to be an active tool for monetary policy in normal times. We therefore do not plan on making adjustments to our balance sheet normalization program. But, of course, as we stated in June, the Committee would be prepared to resume reinvestments if a material deterioration in the economic outlook were to warrant a sizable reduction in the federal funds rate.

Also at our September meeting, the Committee decided to maintain its target for the federal funds rate. We continue to expect that the ongoing strength of the economy will warrant gradual increases in that rate to sustain a healthy labor market and stabilize inflation around our 2 percent longer-run objective. That expectation is based on our view that the federal funds rate remains somewhat below its neutral level–that is, the level that is neither expansionary nor contractionary and keeps the economy operating on an even keel. The neutral rate currently appears to be quite low by historical standards, implying that the federal funds rate would not have to rise much further to get to a neutral policy stance. But we expect the neutral level of the federal funds rate to rise somewhat over time, and, as a result, additional gradual rate hikes are likely to be appropriate over the next few years to sustain the economic expansion. Indeed, FOMC participants have built such a gradual path of rate hikes into their projections for the next couple of years.

ACCC Electricity report details affordability, competition issues

We know from our surveys that many households are under intense pressure thanks to rising costings of living and flat wages. Higher electricity prices are one of the main causes.

Now the ACCC has published a preliminary report into the electricity market highlighting significant concerns about the operation of the National Electricity Market, which is leading to serious problems with affordability for consumers and businesses. They say residential prices have increased by 63 per cent on top of inflation since 2007-08. The main reason customers’ electricity bills have gone up is due to higher network costs. Higher wholesale costs during 2016-17 contributed to a smaller $167 increase in bills.

Consumers and businesses are faced with a multitude of complex offers that cannot be compared easily. Many of these issues arise from unnecessarily complex and confusing behaviour by electricity retailers.

This suggests the current Government focus on supply related issues is myopic, and this alone cannot solve the issues in the system, many of which are simply stemming from poor company behaviour.  And, by the way, this mirrors the issues in the UK, where similar behaviour also exists!

The Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry preliminary report details the ACCC’s initial assessment of information it has gathered including documents and data from industry, consumers, businesses, representative groups and other government and non-government organisations.

The inquiry received over 150 submissions since it began in April. The ACCC heard directly from consumers, businesses and other stakeholders at public forums in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Townsville.

“It’s no great secret that Australia has an electricity affordability problem. What’s clear from our report is that price increases over the past ten years are putting Australian businesses and consumers under unacceptable pressure,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“Consumers have been faced with increasing pressures to their household budgets as electricity prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Residential prices have increased by 63 per cent on top of inflation since 2007-08.”

The main cause of higher customer bills was the significant increase in network costs for all states other than South Australia. In South Australia, generation costs represented the highest increase. There was a much larger increase in the effect of retail costs in Victoria than in other states. Retail margins increased significantly in NSW, but decreased in others.

“The main reason customers’ electricity bills have gone up is due to higher network costs, a fact which is not widely recognised. To a lesser extent, increasing green costs and retailer costs also contributed,” Mr Sims said.

“We estimate that higher wholesale costs during 2016-17 contributed to a $167 increase in bills. The wholesale (generation) market is highly concentrated and this is likely to be contributing to higher wholesale electricity prices,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC estimates that in 2016-17, Queenslanders will be paying the most for their electricity, followed by South Australians and people living in NSW. Victorians will have the lowest electricity bills. This is due to a range of factors including usage patterns in various states, including the prevalence of gas usage in Victoria in particular.

The closure of large baseload coal generation plants has seen gas-powered generation becoming the marginal source of generation more frequently, particularly in South Australia. Higher gas prices have contributed to increasing electricity prices.

The ‘big three’ vertically integrated gentailers, AGL, Origin, and EnergyAustralia, continue to hold large retail market shares in most regions, and control in excess of 60 per cent of generation capacity in NSW, South Australia, and Victoria making it difficult for smaller retailers to compete.

The ACCC has heard many examples of the difficulties that consumers and small businesses face in engaging with the retail electricity market and the particular difficulties faced by vulnerable consumers.

“Consumers and businesses are faced with a multitude of complex offers that cannot be compared easily. There is little awareness of the tools available to help consumers make informed choices or seek assistance if they are struggling to pay their electricity bills,” Mr Sims said.

“Many of these issues arise from unnecessarily complex and confusing behaviour by electricity retailers, and in some cases this appears to be designed to circumvent existing regulation.”

“There is much ill-informed commentary about the drivers of Australia’s electricity affordability problem. The ACCC believes you cannot address the problem unless you have a clear idea about what caused it.”

“Armed with the clear findings on the causes of the problem, the ACCC will now focus on making recommendations that will improve electricity affordability across the National Electricity Market,” Mr Sims said.

Increased generation capacity (particularly from non-vertically integrated generators), preventing further consolidation of existing generation assets, and improving the availability and affordability of gas for gas fired generation, could all help to take the pressure off retail electricity bills.

The ACCC will also seek to identify ways to mitigate the effect of past decisions around network investments on retail electricity prices, noting that many past decisions  are ‘locked-in’ and will burden electricity users for many years to come.

The ACCC will consider steps that can be taken to reduce complexity and improve consumers’ ability to engage with the retail electricity market and switch suppliers.

“We will provide recommendations for reform in our final report, which will be provided to the Treasurer in June 2018,” Mr Sims said.

In part based on our findings, the Federal Government has already taken some steps towards improving electricity affordability, including obtaining commitments from some retailers to move consumers off high standing offers or expired benefit offers, and the proposed removal of limited merits review of AER decisions.

In addition, the ACCC’s preliminary report contains some recommendations that could be immediately implemented by governments:

  • Provide additional resourcing to the AER’s Energy Made Easy price comparison website as a tool to assist consumers in comparing energy offers
  • State and territory governments should review concessions policy to ensure that consumers are aware of their entitlements and that concessions are well targeted and structured to benefit those most in need.
  • Improvements to the AER’s ability to effectively investigate possible breaches of existing regulation, for example the power to require individuals to appear before it and give evidence. Consideration should also be given to the adequacy of existing infringement notices and civil pecuniary penalties to deter market participants from breaching existing regulations.

 

Background

The ACCC’s preliminary findings are that, on average across the NEM, a 2015-16 residential bill was $1,524 (excluding GST). This average residential bill was made up of:

  • network costs (48 per cent)
  • wholesale costs (22 per cent)
  • environmental costs (7 per cent)
  • retail and other costs (16 per cent)
  • retail margins (8 per cent).

In real terms, average residential bills increased by around 30 per cent (on a dollars per customer basis) between 2007-08 and 2015-16. Average residential prices (as measured by cents per kWh measure) have increased by 47 per cent in real terms during the same period.

After considering wholesale price increases in 2016-17, the ACCC estimates that average bills in dollars per customer increased in real terms by 44 per cent since 2007-08, while prices in cents per kWh have increased in real terms by 63 per cent.

See report: Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry preliminary report

For more information: Electricity supply prices inquiry

Households Spending Less On Housing…But

Data from the ABS today – Housing Occupancy and Costs – highlights the average household with an owner occupied mortgage is paying around $450 a week, slightly lower than the peak a couple of years ago.  This equates to around 16% of gross household income, on average.

This does not include repayments on investment properties of course (and many households have multiple properties as investing in property rises).

But of course, the true story is interest rates have fallen to all time lows, allowing people to borrow more, as prices rise. As a result, should interest rates start to bite, this will cause real pain. Then of course we have recent flat wage growth, in real terms, in the past couple of years.

Also, households have a bigger mortgage for longer, which is great for the banks, but not helpful from a household perspective, as it erodes savings into retirement and more older Australians are still borrowing. And of course the current high home prices show a paper profit, but that could be eroded if prices slide.

Thus, the ABS data should not be interpreted as everything is fine, it is not! In fact, underwriting standards should be much tighter now, as we highlighted this morning, Australian Banks are willing to go up to around 6 times income, higher than many other countries, with similar home price bubbles.

The proportion of income mortgagees are using for housing has declined over the last decade, according to new figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“In 2005-06, owners with a mortgage paid 19 per cent of their total household income on housing costs. By 2015-16 this had fallen to 16 per cent. This is likely driven by lower interest rates coupled with growth in household incomes over the last decade, ” Dean Adams, Director of Household Characteristics and Social Reporting, said.

In 2005-06, owners with a mortgage paid $434 per week in housing costs, similar to the $452 paid in 2015-16 in real terms. But over the same period, average total household incomes for mortgagees rose from $2,272 to $2,759 per week.

“Mortgage and property values have also increased in the last decade. Ten years ago, the real median mortgage value was $171,000 which rose to $230,000 in 2015-16. Meanwhile, the real median dwelling value increased from $449,000 to $520,000,” Mr Adams explained.

Going back another decade, the results also reveal that households are entering into a mortgage at older ages. The proportion of younger households (with a reference person aged under 35 years) represented 69 per cent of first home buyers in 1995-96 which dropped to 63 per cent by 2015-16.

“Having a mortgage is now the most common form of ownership for households whose reference person was aged between 35 and 54 years. Among this group, ownership with a mortgage increased by 15 percentage points over the last two decades, from 41 per cent to 56 per cent. Meanwhile, the rate of outright ownership in 2015-16 (12 per cent) was one-third the 1995-96 rate (36 per cent),” Mr Adams said.

The rate of older households (with a reference person aged 55 years and over) who were still paying off a mortgage has tripled between 1995-96 and 2015-16 (from 7 per cent to 21 per cent). Older households are spending more of their income on housing costs than two decades ago, increasing from 8 per cent to 14 per cent for those aged between 55 and 64, and from 5 per cent to 9 per cent for those aged 65 and over.

First Time Buyers Lead Housing Finance Higher In August

Data from the ABS today on housing finance reconfirms what we already knew, overall lending flows for housing from the ADI’s rose 0.6% in trend terms or 2.1% seasonally adjusted. Within that, lending for owner occupied housing rose 0.9%, or 2.1% seasonally adjusted and investor loans rose 0.2% in trend terms, or a massive 4.3% in seasonally adjusted terms. So lending growth is apparent, and signals more household debt ahead.

First time buyers continue to extend their reach, despite we seeing “Peak Price” for property at the moment. In original terms, the number of first home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments rose to 17.2% in August 2017 from 16.6% in July 2017. But these numbers may be wobbly, as the ABS warns:

The number of loans to first home buyers increased strongly in August. The ratio of the number of first home buyer loans to the total number of owner occupier loans also increased strongly. The increase has been driven mainly by changes to first home buyer incentives made in July by the New South Wales and Victorian governments. The ABS is working with financial institutions to establish the size of the increase in first home buyer lending in recent months. These numbers may be revised and users should take care when interpreting recent ABS first home buyer statistics. The ABS is continuing to work with APRA and the financial institutions to improve the quality of first home buyer statistics.

The number of investor first time buyers fell a little according to our surveys, but overall there are more active, thanks to the recent owner occupier incentives.

The overall lending flows, in trend terms revealed a rise in all categories, other than lending for new construction to investors, which fell just a little. Also refinanced loans only grew a little and continues to slide as a proportion of all loans. No real surprise as rates are rising now. The mix of loans also continues to pivot away from investment property, down to 44.8% of all loans (ex. refinance). Still a high number though.

Here are the month on month movements by category.

Looking at the original stock data, another $6.5 billion was added to the owner occupied category or 0.6%, while investor loans rose just 0.1% in the month.

The portfolio mix of investment loans drifted lower overall, down to 34.6% or $550 billion, while the total value of owner occupied loans stood at $1.1 trillion.

IMF Downgrades Australia’s Growth Prospects

The latest IMF forecast is still expecting a growth rate of around 3% in 2018, but they revised down 2017 in the latest Global Financal Stability Report.

Our first half result in 2017 was 1.2%, so the second half is circa 1%, hardly stellar, and the sudden rebound to 3% next year, some might say appears courageous.

They also revised up the unemployment rate, remaining at 5.6%, rather than falling to 5.3% as estimated last time.

This plus slow wage growth highlights the issues underlying the economy.

Financial Stability Improves, But Rising Vulnerabilities Could Put Growth at Risk

From The IMF Blog.

It seems like a paradox. The world’s financial system is getting stronger, thanks to healthy economic growth, buoyant markets, and low interest rates. Yet despite these favorable conditions, dangers in the form of rising financial vulnerabilities are starting to loom. That is why policymakers should act now to keep those vulnerabilities in check.

As we explain in the latest Global Financial Stability Report, the recovery from the global financial crisis isn’t yet complete. Central bankers rightly maintain easy policies to support growth. But this is breeding complacency and allowing a further build-up of financial excesses. Non-financial borrowers are taking advantage of cheap credit to load up on debt. Investors are buying riskier and less liquid assets. If left unattended, these growing vulnerabilities will continue to mount, threatening to derail the economic recovery when shocks occur.

Capital buffers

To be sure, there are reasons for optimism. Low interest rates and rising asset prices are spurring growth. Big, globally systemic banks – so called because the failure of just one of them could shake the financial system – have added $1 trillion to their capital buffers since 2009. Overseas investment into emerging market and low income economies has increased. The global economic upswing is laying hopes for a sustained recovery and allowing central banks to eventually return their monetary policies to normal settings.

So why should policy makers be concerned?

Let’s start with risks in financial markets. Before the crisis, there were $16 trillion in relatively safe, investment-grade bonds yielding more than 4 percent. That has dwindled to just $2 trillion today. There is simply too much money chasing too few high yielding assets. The result is that investors are taking more risks and exposing themselves to bigger losses if markets tumble.

New risks

Then there are rising levels of debt in the world’s biggest economies. Borrowing by governments, households and companies (not including banks) in the so-called Group of 20 exceeds $135 trillion, equivalent to about 235 percent of their combined gross domestic product. Despite low interest rates, debt servicing burdens have risen in several economies. And while borrowing has helped the recovery, it has also created new financial risks. For example, chapter two of the Global Financial Stability Report showed growth in household debt relative to GDP is associated with a greater probability of a banking crisis.

 China

In China, the size, complexity, and pace of credit growth points to elevated financial stability risks. Banking sector assets have risen to 310 percent of GDP, nearly three times the emerging-market average and up from 240 percent at the end of 2012. “Shadow” lending, including wealth management products, remains a big risk for smaller banks. The authorities have taken welcome steps to address these risks, but there is still work to do. Broader reform measures are necessary to reduce the economy’s reliance on rapid credit growth.

Low-income countries have also benefited from easy financial conditions by expanding their access to international bond markets. While borrowing has generally been used to fund infrastructure projects, refinance debt, and repay arrears, it has also been accompanied by an underlying deterioration of debt burdens as measured by the debt service ratio.

Policy implications

Overall, investors are growing complacent about potential shocks that could cause turmoil in markets. These include geopolitical risks, a surge in inflation, and a sudden jump in long-term interest rates. How should policymakers respond? There are several steps they can take:

  • Major central banks can avoid creating market turbulence by thoroughly explaining their plans to gradually unwind crisis-era policies.
  • To discourage riskier lending, financial regulators should deploy so-called “macroprudential” policies, such as limits on loan-to-value ratios for mortgages, for macro critical objectives.
  • Emerging-market and low income countries should take advantage of benign external conditions to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance resilience by enhancing underwriting standards, building capital and liquidity buffers, and increasing reserves.
  • Supervisors should focus more on the business models of banks to ensure sustainable profitability. We estimate that almost one-third of systemically important banks, with $17 trillion in assets, will struggle to achieve the profitability that’s needed to ensure their resilience to shocks.
  • The global regulatory reform agenda should be completed and fully implemented. Global cooperation remains essential.

With the right measures, policy makers can take advantage of these benign times to keep a lid on mounting vulnerabilities and ensure that the global economic expansion remains on track. This is not the time for complacency. The time to act is now. Otherwise, future growth could be at risk.

Residential Construction Rotates

The latest data from the ABS shows building construction activity to June 2017. We see a small rotation towards non-residential work, supported by investment from the public sector. The trend estimates, which irons out the bumps in the series, shows a rise in total building work done, with a fall in residential building of 1.2% and a rise in non-residential building of 2.8%.

Within the residential data, new houses fell 1.3% and other new residential building fell 1.0%.

The trend estimate of the value of total building work done rose 0.3% in the June 2017 quarter.

The trend estimate of the value of new residential building work done fell 1.2% in the June quarter. The value of work done on new houses fell 1.3% while new other residential building fell 1.0%.

The trend estimate of the value of non-residential building work done rose 2.8% in the June quarter.

The trend estimate for the total number of dwelling units commenced fell 3.0% in the June 2017 quarter following a fall of 2.8% in the March quarter.

The trend estimate for new private sector house commencements fell 1.6% in the June quarter following a fall of 2.7% in the March quarter.

The trend estimate for new private sector other residential building commencements fell 4.6% in the June quarter following a fall of 3.0% in the March quarter.