Pete Wargent blogspot

Co-founder & CEO of AllenWargent property advisory, offices in Brisbane (Riverside) & Sydney (Martin Place) - clients include hedge funds, resi funds, & private investors.

4 x finance/investment author - 'Get a Financial Grip: a simple plan for financial freedom’ (2012) rated Top 10 finance books by Money Magazine & Dymocks.

"Unfortunately so much commentary is self-serving or sensationalist. Pete Wargent shines through with his clear, sober & dispassionate analysis of the housing market, which is so valuable. Pete drills into the facts & unlocks the details that others gloss over in their rush to get a headline. On housing Pete is a must read, must follow - he is one of the better property analysts in Australia" - Stephen Koukoulas, MD of Market Economics, former Senior Economics Adviser to Prime Minister Gillard.

"Pete Wargent is one of Australia's brightest financial minds - a must-follow for articulate, accurate & in-depth analysis." - David Scutt, Business Insider, leading Australian market analyst.

"I've been investing for over 40 years & read nearly every investment book ever written yet I still learned new concepts in his books. Pete Wargent is one of Australia's finest young financial commentators." - Michael Yardney, Australia's leading property expert, Amazon #1 best-selling author.

"The most knowledgeable person on Aussie real estate markets - Pete's work is great, loads of good data and charts, the most comprehensive analyst I follow in Australia. If you follow Australia, follow Pete Wargent" - Jonathan Tepper, Variant Perception, Global Macroeconomic Research, and author of the New York Times bestsellers 'End Game' and 'Code Red'.

"Pete's daily analysis is unputdownable" - Dr. Chris Caton, Chief Economist, BT Financial.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Could the touted recession get revised away?

It's well known that some commentators have been going on and on (and on) about the risk that Australia will sink into recession. Australia's GDP growth is bumbling along at a trend of 2.6% per annum or a seasonally adjusted 2.5% p.a. The bearish excitement reached fever pitch when in the last quarter Australia's GDP was again reported at just 0.6% for the 3 months to March, suggesting a possible forthcoming downward trend.

GDP growth

Graph: GDP growth rates, Volume measures, quarterly change

Source: ABS

Not a great result, but monetary policy takes time to see its full results, and, after all, 0.6% is still growth, even if it is not considered to be strong growth.

The March GDP result of 0.6% was quite some way lower than had been initially forecast, but I remarked at the time that there remains every chance that the figure could be revised upwards. And if that were to be combined with a half-decent result for the June quarter, we could yet come in at closer to 3% per annum than 2.5% for the year to June 2013, thus leaving us wondering what all the fuss was about.

Further, last week's inflation figures revealed one piece of gratifying news - the mining construction boom has not left Australia with an inflation problem, such as has been the case when booms have been experienced. Strip out the effect of the carbon price, and annualised inflation actually sits below the targeted 2-3% range (and thus ultra-low interest rates may be maintained).

Building activity

And so to the building activity figures released this month. Again, not a great set of results, although dwelling units commenced increased over the past year for both houses (+5%) and units (+21%) implying that the Reserve Bank's stated plan to stimulate dwelling construction may be beginning to take some sort of shape.

Dwelling units commenced

Graph: Dwelling units commenced

Source: ABS

In all the excitement of highlighting the soft year-on-year building activity figures, very little weight was given to the following note in the Building Activity release.

Significant revisions to this issue
  • the total value of work done in Australia during December quarter 2012 has been revised upwards by $582.1m or 2.8%.
  • the total value of work commenced in Australia during December quarter 2012 has been revised upwards by $1,790.9m or 8.8%. This was driven by revisions to non-residential commencements ($844.4m) and new other residential commencements ($621.5m).
  • the number of dwelling unit commencements in the December quarter 2012 has been revised upwards by 3326 dwellings or 8.4%.
All revisions to the December 2012 quarter's figures and all of them in one direction: upwards. It's also interesting to note that actual capital expenditure undershot expectations in the March quarter in falling by 4.4%, so it will be very interesting to see what is reported for the June quarter on August 29. 

There may be implications for GDP growth which could result in upward revisions.

The Reserve Bank will have been heartened by a major correction to the currency, with the Aussie dollar having devalued markedly against the US dollar since the middle of April, as well as a decent rebound in the iron ore price.

GDP revisions

Detailed research by the Reserve Bank shows that over the past 15 years, Australia, just like our buddies from across the Tasman, has a tendency to revise its GDP figures in an upwards direction. 

Source: RBA

While the biggest absolute revisions to GDP tend to be driven by the highly unpredictable inputs such as change in inventories (by its very nature an "extremely volatile series") and corporate profits (ditto), the RBA's research shows that drivers of revisions in the past have also included household consumption, dwelling investment, engineering and construction, and non-residential building.


The RBA has highlighted that its real time GDP prints can be subject to significant revisions and that early estimates of GDP tend to undershoot the 'final' results to some degree.

"Revisions to early estimates of GDP growth have tended to be sizeable and in an upwards direction, though these characteristics are not unusual by international standards."

Of course, some will continue to highlight every risk facing our economy and every negative angle they can possibly find until the day they drop off: it's their job, after all, gloom-peddling being a mini-industry in itself these days. 

But keep any eye out for what happens over the next six weeks, especially now that we have seen building activity figures for previous periods revised upwards. Could we end up with GDP for the financial year of closer to 3% than 2.5% when the National Accounts are released in early September? There may yet be a surprise to the upside.


Played two games of cricket in the last two days, a full 200 overs of cricket in 48 hours. 

I used to do that sort of thing without batting an eyelid when I was 21 years of age, but today I feel closer to 121. Retained some form of old with the bat, a nice little 70-odd with a few lusty blows, and even rolled out 13 overs of military-medium pace, but the less said about my ground-fielding the better ('Tufnellesque' - could barely bend my knees by close of play yesterday).

I also got sledged several dozen times for "looking like Jesus", "don't give this bloke two lives", "the batter's been resurrected", "he's their saviour..." etc etc. Youngsters respect (not that I had any either when I was a young pup, to be fair).

Truly a struggle to get out of bed this morning. Ouch.