The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

For a very different take on the "cautious consumer" question, try Westpac

Contradicting all my arguments below is Westpac today (of course, this is ultimately just an empirical question):

"Australian consumers may have avoided the worst of the ‘great recession’ but they have still been profoundly affected by the events of 2008-09. The soft spending profile over most of the last year reflects, at least partly, a fundamental shift in their behaviour – namely a sustained swing to a more cautious, debt-averse attitude to their finances. This shift shows through clearly in the detail of the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Survey – in the relatively subdued responses to ‘family finances’ and ‘time to buy’ questions, and in results to ‘wisest place for savings’ questions which show a much stronger inclination towards paying down debt.

While this caution has eased a little in recent months, we expect it to remain a major restraint on spending. A more conservative consumer more averse to debt means the spending recovery will be more restrained than usual and track incomes more closely. This allows for spending growth of 3% but it means we are unlikely to see 4%+ rates sustained as in previous expansions. A return to the low-saving, housing-equity-withdrawal-boosted growth of the previous 15 years is even more unlikely."