Nothing to fear, but fear itself The economy has had its doubters, but the last year was a good one. Can it continue this year? “They misunderestimated me.” – President George W Bush
he 43rd President of the United States earned mixed reviews. His “you are either with us or against us” foreign policy divided opinion. As did his economics, where he pushed through lower taxes but did little to reduce government spending. But he did have political skills, including his language use that could cut through the political noise. It is not only President Bush that has been “misunderestimated”. For much of last year, the Australian economy had its doubters. But it turned out the economy was doin’ just fine. There was more spending and production than expected, as well as plenty of new jobs. The hot and cold spots of the economy were as expected. Consumers were spending, partly financed by saving less. There were lots of houses being built. So no surprise that the real estate industry went gangbusters. Exporters were more than doing their bit, particularly in mining, tourism and education. The health industry also did well. A more-confident consumer was happier to go to their doctor and dentist. Governments found a few more dollars to spend on health. The cold spots revolved around the big fall in business investment, mainly because there are only so many mines that Australia needs to build. But Governments are investing less, worried about budget deficits. Declining commodity prices means that income growth in the economy was anaemic, with sluggish wages growth and declining profits. The economy entered 2016 with good momentum. With interest rates low, the economy is likely to have a decent first half of the year. But it may not be all plain sailing: • Iron
BOQ Chief Economist Peter Munckton The information contained in this article (Information) is general in nature and has been provided in good faith and has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate and opinions fair and reasonable, BOQ Specialist makes no representations or warranties. BOQ Specialist recommends that you obtain independent financial and tax advice before making any decisions. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BOQ Specialist.
ore prices have risen by around one-half since mid-December. If maintained, higher prices would boost national income growth. But with plenty of supply available, and the negative outlook for Chinese manufacturing, the risks are that iron ore prices renew their decline; • Economic growth is being mainly driven by consumption and not investment in productive capacity. Concerned about the profit outlook, firms are reluctant to spend on capex. And low capex is a factor behind low productivity, the most important driver of long-term economic prosperity; • House building will likely be a negative for the economy in the second half of the year. So other drivers will be needed. And the recent rise in the exchange rate is mitigating an important growth driver; • While financial market sentiment has improved, the global risks remain tilted towards weakness. The key question will be whether the momentum entering the year will be enough to keep the economy on track given the risks. We are not negative on the outlook, but the economy will likely need some help from a combination of a lower $A and reduced interest rates. "Facts are stubborn things” said another exUS President, Ronald Reagan. Only time will tell whether the facts end up telling another good economic story in 2016. £ BEST PRACTICE 11