Brian Gaynor in the NZ Herald wrote a piece on the amount of debt in the New Zealand economy and the fact that the Reserve Bank needs some fresh ideas to stem the increasing trend. With the OCR increasing this week to 3.5% the disposable income of the floating mortgage holder will reduce and ultimately impact on their ability to spend – floating mortgages represent 33% of all mortgages in dollar terms. Although higher rates help those that have money in the bank however a lot of this is from overseas investors so interest payments leave the economy. Furthermore the elderly tend to have savings in banks but they are not seen as significant spenders. The higher interest rates also attract ‘hot money’ as NZ’s rates are higher than most other industrialised countries.
The amount of debt in the economy is a major concern especially when you consider how much is mortgage debt – see below. Also the fact that debt as % GDP is now 88.5% and 145% of disposable income – this is putting pressure on inflation not forgetting that people are living very much beyond their means.
The RBNZ is concerned with this debt and introduced restrictions on high loan-to-value residential mortgage lending. They see that there is too much emphasis on housing which is being fuelled by greater access to debt. One only has to look at the Irish property to see how things can wrong – house prices dropped 50% between 2007 and 2012.
New Zealand Dairy farmers are bracing themselves for some tough times ahead with 3 pieces of bad news. There are as follows:
1. Last week saw a 8.9% drop in the Global Dairy Trade (see graph below) which has meant that prices have dropped 35% since February – their lowest level since December 2012. Farmers can expect revised payout forecasts of less than $6 a kilogram of milksolids to follow the 35% fall.To give you an idea of how the lower payout will influence the rural economy – a forecast of a $6.25/kilogram of milksolids would take $3 billion out of dairy incomes – Con Williams ANZ Bank.
2. The high NZ$ is still hindering farmers revenue. With the latest drop in the GDT you would expect some sort of relief to farmers with a fall in the value of the NZ$. However the NZ$ only fell from US$0.88 to US$0.87
3. On Thursday RBNZ Governor is making an announcement on the OCR (Official Cash Rate) and famers are hoping that Graeme Wheeler will not hike interest rates as originally indicated in the June Monetary Policy Statement. Inflation has been somewhat benign but interest rates seem to be influenced more by Auckland house prices and the Christchurch rebuild.
Why have prices dropped?
There has been a world supply shock especially in Europe. It is estimated that if Europe’s 27 milk-producing countries maintained their current volume increase this could knock New Zealand off the perch of top dairy exporter. Below are some supply figures which show that approximately 16bn litres will be added to the market:
New Zealand – 2013 production up 2bn litres
Europe - with the removal of milk quotas, European milk production is forecast to be 7.5bn litres more
China – Milk production is said to have recovered and could be up 15% this year which adds 4.5bn litres to the market
USA – higher milk prices and lower feeds costs are said to add another 2bn litres this year.
Therefore big surpluses accompanied by weaker demand would hit NZ dairy export earning considerably.
Source: The NZ Farmers Weekly July 21, 2014
Following on from a previous post on the Chinese Property Market. Property is the principle source of investment for most Chinese, who do not trust their banks or the stock market. But fears of a serious real estate slump are growing as about 50 million homes are empty. Chinese investors are therefore looking to invest in property markets overseas – Australia, New Zealand, USA to name a few. See video below from Al Jazeera.
Just attending the New Zealand Association of Economists 55th Annual Conference and it was great to hear Diane Coyle present as one of the Keynote speakers. I was originally alerted to her work by Geoff Riley – an economics teacher at Eton College and co-founder of the Tutor2u website – while I was on a Fellowship. He recommended her book ‘The Soulful Science’ back in 2007. The book aims to show how the discipline of economics has changed over the last decade and brings together economic growth and human behaviour.
Her talk was based on the research into her new book GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. She goes right back to the Domesday Book which was a manuscript record of how much each landholder in England and Wales had in land and livestock, and what it was worth. This was completed in 1086 on orders of William the Conqueror. Further mentions of Adam Smith and Karl Marx and what they tended to focus on as an economic indicator. Interesting to note that Holland has included prostitution in its GDP calculations and that the Italian statistical body recently announced that it will include prostitution, drug trafficking, and alcohol-and-tobacco in its calculation of GDP. However Italy is just complying with international accounting standards and reporting illegal economically productive activity is required under European Union rules. But as it is part of the informal economy how do you actually measure drug deals, prostitution etc and therefore its contribution to a country’s GDP?
There is also the intangible economy – how do you measure the output of Vodafone v Skype? Also how are sustainability, variety and innovation measured? If her talk was anything to go by her book seems well worth it.
From the Wall Street Journal Graphics. Here is a great graphic that looks at how those countries competing in the World Cup would fair when you consider variables like:
Highest unemployment rate, Highest inflation rate, Highest murder rate, Most McDonalds Restaurants Per Capita, Lowest traffic death rate etc. Click link below:
How the tournament would play out if 32 countries were competing in things other than soccer.
India’s new government have the challenge of trying to bolster its GDP from the industrial sector. For too long its economy has been going backwards with investment dropping and households shifting their money away from savings and into gold. The Economist identified 3 tasks for the incoming government:
1. Sort out the corrupt banks - bad debts have escalated and banks have chosen to “extend and pretend” loans to zombie firms. The cost of cleaning up the banks is estimated to be 4% of GDP. Healthy banks are needed to finance a new cycle of investment.
2. Stagflation must be dealt with – high inflation and high unemployment (see graph below). High borrowing has fueled inflation and consumers have run to the safety of gold as a store of value for their money. This has meant an increasing deficit in the balance of payments. The central bank is looking at introducing inflation targeting (1-3% in NZ)
3. Developing higher skilled jobs – a lot of Asian countries have benefitted greatly from low cost labour. With labour costs rising in China and 10 million people entering the labour force each year in India, there is a great opportunity to attract foreign investment. This is particularly prevalent when you consider that Japanese firms are now nervous about the on-going military tensions with China and therefore looking at other low cost countries.
For the Indian economy to move forward they will have to ensure investors that the factors of production – land, labour, capital – are reliable and at a competitive price.
The Italian statistical body recently announced that it will include prostitution, drug trafficking, and alcohol-and-tobacco in its calculation of GDP. However Italy is just complying with international accounting standards and reporting illegal economically productive activity is required under European Union rules. But as it is part of the informal economy how do you actually measure drug deals, prostitution etc and therefore its contribution to a country’s GDP?
Holland’s Coffee Shops
Coffeeshops are establishments in Holland where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption by the public is tolerated by the local authorities. Holland already counts cannabis sales as coffee-shop revenues and the EU is looking for greater comparability in the GDP figures which is used to distribute funds from the EU budget. Therefore member states who have a high percentage of their GDP in illegal activities will have their assistance from the EU reduced. See graph from Wall Street Journal.
Countries like Columbia have traditionally had a very large informal economy – drug trafficking – and it is estimated that between 1980 and 2012 that shadow activity varied between 27% and 56% of GDP.