I recently watched the federal treasurer, Scott Morrison, proudly proclaim that Australia was in “surprisingly good shape”. Indeed, Australia has just snatched the world record from the Netherlands, achieving its 104th quarter of growth without a recession, making this achievement the longest streak for any OECD country since 1970.
Australian GDP growth has been trending down for over forty years
Source: Trading Economics, ABS
I was pretty shocked at the complacency, because after twenty six years of economic expansion, the country has very little to show for it.
The ABS will also release its House Price Index data next week (on Monday November 4th) and I’ll try to update a key graph in next week’s post–the correlation of the acceleration of mortgage debt to change in house prices–with that data before Business Spectator posts my article. Prior to the ABS data being published, this indicator is consistent with house prices rising substantially in real terms (see Figure 1).
I’ve been working on the second edition of Debunking Economics for the last three months, and I’m now flat out trying to finish the first draft by the end of March—hence the paucity of posts recently. However the latest Australian GDP figures came out this week, and this has enabled me to update the Credit Impulse data for Australia, which has implications for both employment and asset prices—and especially house prices.
“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is part of a phrase attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and popularised in the United States by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments, and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions. (Wikipedia)
Two recent speeches by the RBA supported the contention that Australian house prices are no longer overvalued, that mortgage repayment costs have returned to historic averages, that Australia is suffering a housing shortage, and therefore that the Australian housing market should not experience the catastrophic falls that are now commonplace across the OECD–and especially in the USA.
“I do not know anyone who predicted this course of events. This should give us cause to reflect on how hard a job it is to make genuinely useful forecasts. What we have seen is truly a ‘tail’ outcome – the kind of outcome that the routine forecasting process never predicts. But it has occurred, it has implications, and so we must reflect on it.”
“But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.” (Keynes, A Tract on Monetary Reform, 1924)
In last month’s Debtwatch, I explained why the data side of why the “Financial Instability Hypothesis” enabled me to predict this crisis, long before conventional “neoclassical” economists had any idea it was approaching.
If things are really grim, it helps to have an indefatigable nature, and there’s no doubt that RBA Deputy Governor Ric Battellino has that in spades—at least in the speeches he makes at public conferences. Were I being crucified, I’d like to have Ric up there with me, singing “Cheer up Brian!…”, to take my mind off the nails.
But were I still in the Garden of Gethsemane, and actually trying to avoid the Romans (and an extended Pilates session the next day), I think I’d want someone else on lookout duty.
The financial crisis is widely accepted as having started in August 9 2007, with the BNP’s announcement that it was suspending redemptions from three of its funds that were heavily exposed to the US securitisation market (click here for the BNP August 9 2007 press release).
Just three months beforehand, the OECD released its 2007 World Economic Outlook, in which it commented that:
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