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Australian national accounts – we are becoming poorer

Today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the – December-quarter 2015 National Accounts data – which showed that real GDP grew by 0.6 per cent in the three months to December 2015 (down from 1.1 per cent in the September-quarter. It was largely driven by Private household consumption (albeit declining) and public consumption and capital formation. Private consumption growth remained positive and contributed to growth, but it is being funded by a declining saving ratio and rising indebtedness. This was in the context of declining real wages growth and declining real net national disposable income overall and per capita. These trends are unsustainable. The government sector was responsible for 50 per cent of the total growth in the December-quarter. Without the public sector spending contribution, annualised growth would be at 1.2 per cent relative to pre-GFC trend rates of between 3 and 3.25 per cent. The negative growth in private investment means that potential output in Australia and future growth rates will be lower than otherwise. Again, not a positive sign. The other notable result was the increasing evidence that Australia continues to be in an income recession. Real net national disposable income fell by a further 0.1 per cent over the quarter and 1.1 per cent over the last year. The data continues to confirm that Australia faces a very uncertain outlook and with the annual fiscal statement coming up – now is not the time to be cutting net public spending.

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Australian National Accounts – uncertain outlook with exports dominant

Today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the – September-quarter 2015 National Accounts data – which showed that real GDP grew by 0.9 per cent in the three months to September 2015, largely because there was a strong rebound in export volumes. Domestic demand contracted because both private and public investment spending was sharply negative. The other notable result was that ‘income recession’ that Australia entered in the last quarter has consolidated wth the total market value of goods and services (GDP) outpacing the flow that Australian residents enjoy as income. Real net national disposable income fell by a further 0.1 per cent over the quarter and 1.0 per cent over the last year. While private consumption growth remained positive, the savings ratio fell indicating that households are drawing on savings or credit to fund their on-going spending in the fact of weak wages growth and declining Real net national disposable income overall and per capita. Today’s data is positive in the sense that growth has not collapsed given the poor investment spending performance. But the reliance on net exports (with export growth and import contraction) provides a very uncertain outlook.

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Australia – investment spending contracts sharply, recession looming

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) published the September-quarter – Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia – data today as part of the sequence of data releases relating to next Wednesday’s release of the third quarter National Accounts. Today’s release is especially important given the earlier signs that expected investment would plummet in 2016 and drive economic growth towards recession. Today’s release confirms the worst with Total new capital expenditure falling by 20 per cent in the 12 months to September 2015, investment in Building and structures falling by 23.6 per cent over the same period, and investment in Equipment, plant and machinery falling by 12.7 per cent. In the September-quarter alone, Total new capital expenditure fell by 9.2 per cent. Expected investment for 2015-16 is now 20.9 per cent lower than the equivalent figure 12 months. This is a disaster for the Australian government’s fiscal strategy outlined earlier in May, which was planning to accelerate the austerity. The fiscal stands is currently based on deeply flawed forecasts of private spending and if the investment plans signalled in this data release are realised then the economy will continue to move towards recession over the next 12 months. In light of the latest investment expectations revealed in today’s ABS data release, the Government should abandon their fiscal strategy immediately and announce a significant stimulus package. Unemployment is already at elevated levels and will rise further under the current trends. This is another case of neo-liberal austerity white-anting the capacity of the economy to deliver prosperity for all.

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Australia national accounts – heading for recession at this rate

When the March-quarter 2015 National Accounts came out three months ago I wrote that “the fragility of growth increases”, as the economy descended into a state of weak growth well below the accepted trend rate. The latest data – June-quarter 2015 National Accounts data – released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today suggests that that fragility has worsened as net exports contracted sharply. Only household consumption and government spending (both consumption and investment) kept the Australian ecoomy growing, albeit at an aneamic rate of 0.2 per cent for the quarter and 2 per cent for the year to June 2015. But the trend is towards near zero growth and the ABS wrote that “Nominal GDP growth was 1.8% for the 2014-15 financial year”, which was “the weakest growth in nominal GDP since 1961-62.” The other notable result was that ‘income recession’ that Australia entered in the last quarter has consolidated wth the total market value of goods and services (GDP) outpacing the flow that Australian residents enjoy as income. Real net national disposable income fell by a further 0.9 per cent over the quarter and 1.1 per cent over the last year. While private consumption growth remained positive, the savings ratio continues to fall indicating indebtedness in on the increase as wages growth remains weak. The other notable result is that despite the call for austerity by the Federal government, gross fixed capital formation (investment) rose by only 0.4 per cen, driven entirely by public sector investment spending. Without the contribution of public spending overall, the Australian economy would have been in negative growth territory. Today’s data paints a very negative outlook for the Australian economy for the remainder of this year and into 2016. With real GDP growth well below that needed to reduce unemployment and underemployment, the government needs to stimulate the economy to boost income and employment growth. This would also allow wages to grow and take the squeeze off households.

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Australian National Accounts – the fragility of growth increases

The – March-quarter 2015 National Accounts data – released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today confirms that the Australian economy was stuck in a weak growth state in the last three months of 2014. Real GDP growth grew by by a 0.9 per cent in the March-quarter 2015. The annual growth rate of 2.3 per cent down from 2.5 per cent in the December-quarter, and still well below trend. But the March-quarter result is stronger than the last 3 quarters. One should not be optimistic about the future though. Australia is now firmly caught up in what we call an ‘income recession’ where the total market value of goods and services (GDP) is outpacing the flow that Australian residents enjoy as income. Real net national disposable income fell by 0.2 per cent over the last year. While private consumption growth remained positive, it is not being driven by wages growth (which have fallen overall in the last year). Rather, the savings ratio fell and indebtedness in on the increase – signs of trends that ultimately led to the GFC> Further, despite corporate profits rising, private investment growth was negative. With the fiscal position now leaning towards austerity, today’s data paints a fairly uncertain picture for the Australian economy for the remainder of this year. Now is not the time for fiscal retrenchment. With real GDP growth well below that needed to reduce unemployment and underemployment, the government needs to stimulate the economy to boost income and employment growth. This would also allow wages to grow and take the squeeze off households.

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Friday lay day – Australia heading for recession

Its the Friday lay day blog, which means very little as it turns out. Today, though it means a short insight into the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure – data for the March-quarter yesterday, which showed that Australia is heading for recession-level private capital formation rates. The data also suggests that the Australian government’s fiscal strategy outlined earlier in May is based on deeply flawed forecasts of private spending and if the investment plans signalled in this data release are realised then the economy will slow substantially over the next 12 months. The fiscal stance in the most recent statement is towards contraction (austerity). In the light of the latest investment expectations revealed in the ABS data release, the Government should abandon their fiscal strategy immediately and announce a significant stimulus package. Unemployment is already rising and will rise further under the current trends. This is another case of neo-liberal austerity white-anting the capacity of the economy to deliver prosperity for all.

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Australian national accounts – growth well below trend continues

The – December-quarter 2014 National Accounts data – released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today confirms that the Australian economy was stuck in a weak growth state in the last three months of 2014. Real GDP growth grew by by a miserable 0.5 per cent in the December-quarter 2014. The annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent is being held up by the strong March-quarter 2014 result (1.1 per cent growth), which was clearly atypical. An growth rate of around 2 per cent is a more reasonable estimate of where Australia began 2015. With fiscal austerity set to worsen this year, today’s date paints a fairly gloomy picture for the Australian economy for the remainder of this year. Now is not the time for fiscal retrenchment. The government needs to stimulate the economy to boost income and employment growth and not squeeze households and lead them into more debt.

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“There is plenty of stimulus” – but I am struggling to see it

“The economy is not weak enough that there needs to be more fiscal stimulus … there’s plenty of stimulus from the Reserve bank with record low interest rates” (Source). That comment came from an Australian private sector investment bank economist. It is an extraordinary comment to make and still claim status as a professional economist. What is the measure of a weak economy? Rising unemployment and underemployment, now well above 15 per cent? Negative real net national disposable income for two consecutive quarters? Real GDP growth barely a 1/3 of it previous trend rate? Because that is the reality in Australia right now and it is getting worse. Further, the RBA has cut the short-term interest rate 14 times since October 2011 and has held the rate at 2.5 per cent (a record low) since September 2013. The unemployment rate has risen by 1.1 per cent since October 2011 and 0.5 per cent since September 2013. When will these clowns in the financial markets finally realise that monetary policy is an ineffective tool for increasing aggregate demand?

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Australian national accounts – growth plummets as policy fails

In September, I wrote of the 2nd-quarter national accounts data that the economy was weak and getting weaker. The – September-quarter 2014 data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today confirms that prognosis. Weak is an understatement. Real GDP growth grew by by a miserable 0.3 per cent a further drop on the 0.5 per cent in the June-quarter 2013. The annualised growth rate of 2.7 per cent is being held up by the strong in late 2013 but something around 1.2 to 1.8 per cent per annum looking forward is a more realistic assessment of where the economy is at present. Despite a substantial fall in the terms of trade, net exports contributed 0.8 percentage points to growth while consumption contributed 0.4 points. A major decline in private and public investment shaved off 0.7 percentage points. Fiscal austerity is set to worsen, which means that the data paints a fairly gloomy picture for the Australian economy for the next year at least.

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Australian national accounts – weak and getting weaker

When the first-quarter National Accounts data came out for Australia I noted that despite the relatively strong growth recorded in that period, the Australian economy was in a fragile state and the contemporary indicators (given that the real GDP data is 3 months old by the time it is published) were indicating that the economy would slow significantly in the June-quarter. Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts – for the June-quarter 2014, confirms that prediction. Real GDP growth grew by 0.5 per cent down from 1.1 per cent in the June-quarter 2013. The annualised growth rate of 3.1 per cent is being held up by the strong June-quarter growth but something around 2 per cent per annum looking forward is a more realistic assessment of where the economy is at present. The external sector is now a negative influence on growth as is the government sector. In this quarter, there was a large inventory adjustment (up) which was the difference between positive and negative growth overall. That short of inventory swing will not continue. With export prices plummetting due to a glut in iron ore shipments to China, the external sector will continue to be a drag. Fiscal austerity is set to worse, which means that the data paints a fairly gloomy picture for the Australian economy for the rest of this year at least.

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