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 1, 2011

Private capex surges +4.4% in Q2 (vs. forecast of +4%)--huge upward revision to Q1

Yeah, this chart shows us why we are really in recession, as many suggest. Real (ie, after inflation) private investment surged +4.9% in Q2 (market expected +4.0%) while Q1 capex was revised up more than 100% from +3.4% to +7.7%. Even manufacturing capex rose in Q2! UBS comments: "Total capex is now up 23.3% y/y, above the 2008 peak of 20.2% and the highest since Q1 2006 (at 28.5%)."

But the RBA should ignore this positive noise--it should cut rates, or so the argument goes. Productivity is low. Wages are growing robustly. Core inflation is about 40% above the RBA's target (assuming they still have one, which is a genuine open question). Unemployment is at its full-employment level of around 5%. We have the biggest private investment boom in history. The labour market is more rigid than it has been in a long time. Our key trading partners, China and India, are growing quickly and have inflation problems. The rest of the developed world is keeping interest rates near zero for as long as the eye can see.

But ignore all that, and slash rates by 100bps. After all, you should be maximising growth and employment. House prices are down a bit, the equities market is still off 30% from its 2007 highs (and all those fund managers are very vocal), and retailers/manufacturers are having a tough time. C'mon guys, you have a multi-faceted mandate! Check the 1959 Act, and ignore the 2010 Statement on the Conduct of Monetary Policy. Better yet, confuse us all and cherry-pick parts of both to maximise your wriggle room. I guess that is why you like to call it "flexible inflation-targeting". We target low inflation when...inflation is low. But when core inflation prints high, we find reasons in our mandate to look through it. Maybe it should be called "inflation-targeting, when we want to".