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FURTHER official interest rate rises could choke off consumer spending and grind the economy to a halt, economists warn.

Herston Economics chief economist Clifford Bennett says if the Reserve Bank raises the cash rate to five per cent by year’s end, the economy would “grind to a standstill”.

The current cash rate is 4.25 per cent, after the RBA lifted the rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Tuesday in an effort to further rein in expansionary pressures.

It was the fifth monthly interest rate rise by the central bank since October last year.

“If the cash rate gets to 5 per cent … the domestic economy will grind to a standstill,” Mr Bennett said.

“We’re seeing in the Sydney press examples of them having to choose between buying groceries and paying their electricity bill and the added burden from the RBA is completely unwarranted, unnecessary and unwanted.”

RBA governor Glenn Stevens said it was appropriate to raise the cash rate towards its long-run average given that “the risk of serious economic contraction

Most economists say the average long-run cash rate is around 5 per cent.

Nomura Australia economist Stephen Roberts said rising interest rates meant consumers were paying a greater proportion of their income in servicing debt.

Data compiled by the central bank showed that when the cash rate was 3.75 per cent at the and of the December quarter of 2009, the average household was paying more than 10 per cent of its income, minus taxes and some other regular payments, on interest payments.

When the cash rate topped 18 per cent in December 1989, the average household was spending just under nine per cent of its income on interest payments.

The figures also show that in December quarter of 1989, household debt was slightly less than half household yearly income.

Twenty years later it was equal to one and a half times an average household’s yearly income.

“That data is from fourth quarter (2009) and you have to remember we’ve had two more interest rate rises already,” Mr Roberts said.

He said a lower interest rate of 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent would be more appropriate given the current difference between the cash rate and the interest rates of major lenders.

Official economic data now points to a slowing economy, with building approvals, employment and retail sales data for March all coming in under market expectations.

Mr Bennett said the data suggested Australia’s economic performance post the global financial crisis was weaker than first thought.

“When you look at the domestic economy, there are patchy elements,” he said.

“There are storm clouds on the horizon.”

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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THIS North Beach property could confirm whether Perth’s struggling real estate market has turned the corner.  home in nb

Real estate experts say that during the height of WA’s property boom the 1346sqm ocean-front house on West Coast Drive would have fetched more than $5 million.

It is for auction on Saturday and the selling price will be a strong indication of whether property prices, especially for top-end homes, have started to recover.

Nexus sales consultant Peter Berridge, who specialises in the North Beach area, said the property would have been highly sought after during the 2006-07 housing boom.

“It’s a nice elevated lot, with a nice frontage. It’s got everything going for it,” Mr Berridge said.

“I don’t think it would be an over-exaggeration to think it might have sold for in excess of $5 million (back then). We were going through an era where it didn’t seem to matter what you paid for it, you were always going to make a packet until the proverbial hit the fan.”

Mr Berridge said he believed values had dropped about 40 per cent since the property peak.

“The last sale was 341 West Coast Drive in Trigg that sold for $2.2 million and it was a very choice piece of land _ something like that could have possibly pulled $4 million in 2007 and I can mention lesser blocks that sold for more than $4 million,” he said.

According to Landgate, North Beach has enjoyed solid property value growth in the past decade.
It recorded a 19.4 per cent average annual growth rate in the 10 years to December 2008. It also recorded strong growth last year and was among the Perth metropolitan area’s Top 10 performing suburbs, with a 17.7 per cent jump in median house prices.

But during this period it recorded a low volume of sales activity, with just 19 homes sold.
This could have skewered the statistics.

“There’s no doubt that the market for premium coastal property has come back since the height of 2007,” Real Estate Institute of WA president Rob Druitt said.

“Indications are that the first signs of recovery are starting to come through now, so there’s certainly a unique opportunity for buyers who are (looking) in that market,” he said.

Mr Druitt said it has been a bottom-up recovery, so if the top end was reasonably priced and sold, it could give a good indication that Perth’s entire property market had seen the worst.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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More than 40% of Australian employers are struggling to fill positions, according to Manpower’s Fourth Annual Talent Shortage Survey.

Engineers, technicians and machine operators were all in the top 10 list of jobs that employers are having difficult filling.

Nearly 11,500 Australian employers were interviewed as part of the global survey.

“Despite high levels of unemployment in many markets, this year’s talent survey suggests a mismatch between the type of individuals available for work and the specific skills that employers are looking for,” Manpower’s managing director Lincoln Crawley said.

According to Crawley, companies are being pressured to shift their mindset to think more strategically and creatively about how to do more with less and the same approach is being applied to how they manage their talent.

“Employers are looking for ways to accelerate their business strategy with less people. It’s this specificity of skills required in the individuals that employers are now seeking that is creating a sense of talent shortage amidst an overabundant pool of available workers.

“This conundrum is frustrating both employers and individuals,” he said.

According to the survey, skilled trade vacancies have become the most difficult to fill in recent years, moving from eighth place in 2006, to fifth in 2007, fourth in 2008, and second in 2009.

Source :   http://www.liveinaustralia.com/home/news.asp

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