Posts by Sandra Morris

Australian Business Conditions Continue Declining in July

Business conditions have slipped again in July across most Australian industries, continuing the downward trend starting in April.

The NAB’s monthly business survey revealed that conditions fell in the mining, manufacturing, retail and finance sectors. “The retail sector remains clearly the weakest, declining again in the month to see the retail conditions index fall to 0 points,” said NAB chief economist Alan Oster.

Construction became one of the few industries to have a “sharp” increase in conditions, which Oster said likely came from “the large pipeline of both residential and infrastructure-related work”.

Measures of trading and profitability also dipped in July, with the latter falling five points to +10.

However, business confidence remained relatively consistent, rising one point to +7. Employment index also rose five points to +10. “The employment index – based on historical patterns – is consistent with jobs growth of around 23,000 per month, which should see the unemployment rate continue to edge lower over the rest of 2018,” said Oster.

Mining industry had the highest employment index, followed by finance, business and property services and construction.

“Overall, the survey results are broadly in line with our outlook for the economy for the rest of 2018,” said Oster.

“The business sector looks relatively healthy, and we expect to see enough employment growth to see a gradual reduction in spare capacity, which should in time see a rise in wage growth, and a more general lift in inflation.”

Philip Lowe Crawford Forum Flickr

Immigration-Driven Population Growth Key to Economic Success, RBA Governor Says

The Reserve Bank governor has named immigration-driven population growth as the reason Australia outpaces other advanced economies.

In a speech in Sydney, Philip Lowe said the nation’s high immigration levels helped in slowing down the rate of population ageing, lowering the old-age dependency ratio and driving higher than average growth in recent years. Lowe said the influx of new migrants, whose median age sat between 20 and 25, helped upturn the demographic trends.

“Over the past five years, over 80% of net overseas migration has been accounted for by people under the age of 35,” said Lowe. “This has implications for future economic growth and the pressures on government budgets.”

Over the past ten years Australian population has grown by 1.5 per cent to reach 25 million on Wednesday, compared to other advanced economies which have less than 1 per cent growth.

Lowe’s comment followed the news that the federal government has cut permanent migration intake by 10 per cent over the past 12 months to 162,417, the lowest number in a decade. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said this was a result of departmental crackdown.

Amazon Continues Dominating Cloud Infrastructure Market

Amazon Web Services continues to dominate the cloud computing infrastructure market, although Microsoft is catching up with its Azure offering.

A new report by Gartner found that the worldwide market for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) public cloud services grew 29.5 per cent with a revenue of US$23.58 billion in 2017, increasing from 2016’s $18.213 billion. The top four vendors – Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and Google – represented 73 per cent of the market, with Amazon holding a little more than half of the market share.

“The top four providers have strong IaaS offerings and saw healthy growth as IaaS adoption is being fully embraced by mainstream organisations and as cloud availability expands into new regions and countries,” said Sid Nag, research director at Gartner.

On the second spot, Microsoft took home a $3.13 billion in revenue in 2017, a 98 per cent growth from the previous year’s $1.579 billion. This growth is expected to continue after the company’s latest quarter, which saw the revenue from Azure public cloud service increasing by 85 per cent from the same period a year ago.

Alibaba and Google also saw a significant growth of 63 per cent and 56 per cent respectively. Gartner attributed Alibaba’s rise to its investment in research and development.

“This reflects a fundamental change in what and how organisations are consuming technology,” said Nag.

“Some legacy infrastructure offerings, such as IUS, are seeing lower and slower uptake that impacts the combined IaaS and IUS market… Additionally, a groundswell of demand for cloud-skilled personnel is forcing technology providers to change how they compete to meet this exploding demand.”

Sydney Rental Vacancy Rates Hit Record High

Rental prices in Sydney are expected to continue slipping as vacancy rates reach a 13-year high.

A report by property analysis firm SQM Research found that 2.8 per cent of Sydney’s rental properties were empty in June, increasing by 0.3 per cent from May and almost a full percentage point from a year ago.

SQM’s managing director Louis Christopher said the figures could be attributed to the rising supply of new apartments and the easing population growth due to people’s move to cheaper cities and regions.

“Sydney rents are now down for the year and it is likely rents will continue to slip as there is still a lot of supply coming in the pipeline,” said Christopher in the report.

“I believe Sydney will shortly record a fall in its population growth rate due to a relatively recent steep rise in interstate migration towards Queensland.”

The buyers’ market is also cooling, with home prices falling by 4.9 per cent over the past year. According to CoreLogic, this is caused by stricter loan terms, increase in number of listings, and declining activity from local and offshore investors.

“I think this is the only time in my career that I can say with certainty that Sydney is now a buyer’s and a renter’s market, simultaneously,” said Christopher.

Luis Villa del Campo Nasdaq

US-China Trade War Sinks AUD, Global Stocks

The rising tension between US and China in trades has sent almost every major asset sinking, including oil, global stocks and Australian dollar.

The Trump administration announced that it will impose a 10 per cent tariff on $US200 billion worth of Chinese goods, including consumer items such as clothing and refrigerators. This decision followed China’s implementation of reciprocal tariffs on $US34 billion in US import goods.

The Dow Jones was down 0.9 per cent to 24,700, while the S&P and Nasdaq closed 0.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent lower respectively.

Chinese stocks declined by 1.6 per cent, while European markets such as Paris, London and Frankfurt lost between 1.3 and 1.5 per cent each. Japan’s Nikkei also dropped by 1.2 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 1.3 per cent.

Gold fell 0.9 per cent to $US1,244.4 per ounce, while brent crude oil was down 6 per cent to $US74.17 per barrel.

Australian dollar plunged 1.2 per cent to 73.65 US cents, and is expected to continue declining. “We remain of the view that trade tensions are likely to get worse before they get better and as such we still see more downside risk for the Australian dollar,” NAB’s senior foreign exchange strategist Rodrigo Catril told the ABC.

AGL Announces Power Price Drops

AGL has announced price drops for power in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, following competitor Origin’s similar move this week.

Residential electricity prices will be cut by 0.3 percent in NSW, 1.5 percent in Queensland and 0.4 percent in SA, much lower than what market analysts predicted.

“While these price cuts are slight, they’re part of a downward trend that is emerging as more investment in new sources of supply comes into the market,” said AGL’s chief customer officer Melissa Reynolds, referencing the increasing network and green costs.

“We understand power prices have been high and that has put pressure on many households.”

On Tuesday, Origin announced that it will cut residential electricity prices in south-east Queensland and SA by 1.3 percent and 1 percent respectively, while maintaining the same prices for NSW and the ACT.

Origin’s Power Price Changes. Source: Origin/ABC

Both drops are far lower than the Australian Energy Markets Commission’s (AEMC) forecast, which expected 5.8 percent fall in NSW, 7 percent in south-east Queensland and 6.9 percent in SA in 2018-19.

Julian Meehan Adani

Queensland Government Considers Using Public Funds for Adani Road Project

The Queensland government is considering covering the $100 million cost of road access for Adani coal mine, despite promising that no taxpayers fund would go to the project.

The ABC said documents obtained under a right to information revealed the Palaszczuk government is still in negotiations with Adani and Isaac Regional Council about upgrading access to the proposed Carmichael mine site in central Queensland.

However, the Department of Transport and Main Roads said no decision has been made yet.

In November, Palaszczuk said she would not rule out helping the local council fund the access road. A spokesman for the government said it would cooperate with local councils in regard to their infrastructure needs. “Significant projects can impact on local road networks and improvements to those networks can benefit the greater community,” he said. “Costs associated with major projects are recovered by the state on a commercial basis.”

The ongoing negotiations have received backlash. “Annastacia Palaszczuk has lied to Queenslanders and has broken yet another election promise,” said Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.

The Mackay Conservation Group said the government must rule out funding the road project. “The Queensland Coordinator General recommended Adani be responsible for road upgrades and Adani said it would pay for the upgrade,” said the group’s spokeswoman Maggie McKeown. “Why then would the premier spend public funds on this project?”

Ricoh Becomes Australia’s First Carbon-Neutral IT Services Company

Ricoh has become the first IT services company in Australia to achieve carbon-neutral status.

Following its achievement as the first tech services organisation in the country to achieve a carboNZero certification, Ricoh went further in its efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. The company worked closely with not-for-profit Enviro-Mark Solutions to develop a multi-pronged GHG reduction strategy.

The strategy covered a number of areas, including a reduction in electricity consumption, freight and fuel usage, staff air travel and waste to landfill.

“Every aspect of our national operations was put under the microscope so we could understand the sources of all our existing GHG emissions,” said Tori Starkey, general manager – marketing at Ricoh Australia. “Taking such a holistic approach meant we would be well placed to make our subsequent activities as effective as possible.

“Far from being a set-and-forget exercise, these strategies will continue to be evaluated and improved over time. At the same time, customers are enjoying more efficient service and product deliveries while also being able to achieve their own footprint improvements … With increasing attention being paid to achieving a reduced corporate environmental footprint, many businesses have set a goal of making their operations carbon neutral. For Ricoh Australia, this goal has become a reality.”

Adelaide’s Real Estate Market Continues Speedy Sales Boom

Real estate Adelaide continues its boom as houses sell up to four times as fast as they did a year ago.

According to realestate.com.au data for the six months to April 30, Gilberton is the fastest selling suburb for houses with median time of 13 days on the market. This is a significant improvement from 35 days for the same period last year.

Hyde Park and Sefton Park houses follow with median market time of 17 days, while Clarence Gardens and Melrose Park houses sell in 18 days.

For units, Kensington Gardens rises to the top with 19 days, less than a third of last year’s 65 day median. It is followed by Brompton with 20 days and Klemzig with 22 days, way down from its 88 days last year.

Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said sale times would continue to go down due to the declining stock trend over the winter.