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."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Economists expect one more cut in 2012 (chart)

I've summarised the results of Bloomberg's RBA cash rate survey into the chart below. They have polled 24 economists, and I've shown the high/low forecast each period in addition to the "median" (middle observation) and "average".

The "median" (red line) economist expects a 0.25 percentage point (or "basis point") rate cut in May followed by interest rate stability until the first quarter of next year. The median then forecasts one hike back to 4.25% in 2013. My own May forecast is currently a "more likely than not" 25 basis point cut subject to the inflation results on the 24th, which could stay the RBA's hand.

The "average" economist prediction (orange line) is very similar: the average thinks there is a chance the RBA does not cut in May, albeit this is a slim prospect given the average expectation is 4.03% by May. The average then thinks there is a non-zero chance of a total of two rate cuts this year, and prices in a cash rate of 3.92% until the fourth quarter.  The average subsequently starts pricing in rate hikes in 2013.

The dotted lines in the chart show the highest and lowest forecasts. The lowest any of the 24 economists surveyed see the cash rate going is 3.75%, which implies two more cuts. In contrast, the highest see no cuts at all this year, and a first hike by Q1 next year.

It is always good to condition one's analysis to extreme "outliers" (eg, a Steve Keen style scenario). One such outlier, who was not included in the Bloomberg poll, is the ALP-aligned economist Stephen Koukoulas. Prior to ANZ's decision to hike on Friday, and the strong labour market result last week that saw the unemployment rate unchanged at 5.2%, Koukoulas forecast the RBA would cut by a massive 50 basis points in May (he admittedly also forecast rate cuts in February and in April).

Koukoulas has naturally reaffirmed his 50 basis point cut call for May following ANZ's small rate hike on Friday, although, technically, the RBA would have to cut by more than 50 basis points to satisfy his pre-ANZ views (ie, by 56 basis points). Koukoulas thinks we will have lots of cuts going forward--many more so than any of the 24 economists polled by Bloomberg. Specifically, he declares: "Get set for a 50 cut in May and probably more cuts in the second half of 2012." If this comes to pass, it will be great news for housing investors.