Home prices flatten: Craig James

Home prices flatten: Craig James
Home prices flatten: Craig James

GUEST OBSERVER

The CoreLogic Home Value Index of capital city home prices rose by 0.1 percent in April and was up 11.2 percent over the year.

It was the smallest monthly lift in prices in 16 months. Prices rose in six of the eight capital cities. Regional house prices by 1.1 percent in March (latest available).

High end decline: Prices of homes in the upper quartile of properties by value fell by 0.4 percent in April – the biggest decline in 17 months.

Manufacturing: The Performance of Manufacturing index rose by 1.7 points to 59.2 in April – a reading just below 15-year highs. A reading above 50.0 indicates that the sector is expanding. This was the seventh consecutive month of expansion.

China data: The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index eased from 51.8 to 51.2 in April (forecast 51.6). The services index eased from 55.1 to 54.0. 

What does it all mean?

You can debate all you like about the accuracy of economic indicators. But it is hard to argue with surveys of businesses. The latest survey of manufacturers indicates that business conditions are around the strongest levels in 15 years. The NAB survey of a broader range of businesses suggest conditions are the best in at least 9 years. Overall, the economy is in good shape.

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Home prices flatten: Craig James

Policymakers will be happy that home prices recorded more modest gains in April, especially the Sydney market. But there is more evidence that higher home prices in Sydney and Melbourne and spreading to other capital cities and regional centres. This was always on the cards with investors perceiving that Sydney and Melbourne markets had become more fully valued and shifting their attention to other markets. 

Annual growth in regional house prices is the strongest in 21⁄2 years with regional NSW leading the way. House prices in regional NSW are up 10.2 per cent on a year ago – the fastest growth in the eight years of records. And Hobart home prices are recording the strongest annual gains for over 12 years. 

What do the figures show?

Home prices

The CoreLogic Home Value Index of capital city home prices rose by 0.1 percent in April and was up 11.2 percent over the year. It was the smallest monthly lift in prices in 16 months.

In regional Australia, house prices rose by 1.1 percent in March and were 4.9 percent higher than a year ago. (Regional prices cover just houses and data is up to the end of March).

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Home prices flatten: Craig James

In capital cities, house prices rose by 0.3 per cent in April while apartment prices fell by 1.2 per cent. House prices were up 11.9 per cent on a year ago and apartments were up by 6.2 per cent.

The average Australian capital city house price (median price based on settled sales over quarter) was $661,200 and the average unit price was $550,000.

Dwelling prices rose in six of the eight capital cities in April: Hobart (up 1.0 per cent), Adelaide (up 0.8 per cent), Brisbane (up 0.6 per cent), Melbourne and Darwin (both up 0.5 per cent). Sydney prices were flat while prices fell in Perth (down 1 per cent) and Canberra (down 2.8 per cent).

Home prices were higher than a year ago in six of the eight capital cities. Prices rose most in Sydney (up 16.0 per cent); followed by Melbourne (up 15.3 per cent), Hobart (up 13.6 per cent); Canberra (up 8.4 per cent); Adelaide (up 2.2 per cent); and Brisbane (up 2.1 per cent). Prices fell in Perth (down by 6.0 per cent) and Darwin (down 2.3 per cent)

Total returns on capital city dwellings rose by 14.9 percent in the year to April with houses up 15.5 per cent on a year earlier and units up 10.6 per cent.

Performance of Manufacturing

The Performance of Manufacturing index rose by 1.7 points to 59.2 in April. A reading above 50.0 indicates that the sector is expanding. This was the seventh consecutive month of expansion for the Australian PMI® and the strongest monthly result since February 2017 and before that, since May 2002.

AIG notes “All seven activity sub-indexes in the Australian PMI® expanded in April. New orders remained elevated (61.5 points) while sales surged higher (65.5 points), as did production (60.7 points), exports (58.6 points) and employment (55.9 points). Inventories eased to a more modest rate of expansion (51.2 points) in April.”

“Comments from manufacturers in April indicate demand continues to improve. Increasing exports are a key theme, with several manufacturers reporting success in new markets in Asia. Stronger output and prices in the local agricultural and mining sectors is supporting demand for some types of machinery, equipment and chemicals, while large public infrastructure projects are fuelling demand for building materials, metals, transport equipment and others. Cyclone Debbie appears to have dampening activity in Queensland and Northern NSW, although the direct impact on manufacturing has not been severe.”

What is the importance of the economic data?

The CoreLogic Hedonic Australian Home Value Index is based on Australia’s biggest property database. Unlike the ABS Index, which excludes terraces, semi-detached homes and apartments, the CoreLogic Hedonic Index includes all properties. Home prices are an important driver of wealth and spending. 

The Australian Industry Group compiles the Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) each month. The Australian PMI is the Australian equivalent of the US ISM manufacturing gauge. The PMI is one of the timeliest economic indicators released in Australia. The PMI is useful not just in showing how the manufacturing sector is performing but in providing some sense about where it is heading. The key ‘forward looking’ components are orders and employment.

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Home prices flatten: Craig James

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The latest economic news is generally positive. Manufacturing is expanding solidly with exports leading the way. And home prices have flattened in the high-flying Sydney market. The thing to watch now is the extent to which high prices in the south-east spread across Australia.

The flattening out of home prices in Sydney and declines in apartment prices represent a wake-up call to investors. At present total returns on shares is out-performing returns on homes.

The Reserve Bank has no need to lift or cut rates as yet. Rate hikes are still more likely to come in 2018 but the risk is that they arrive earlier rather than later. 

Craig James is the chief economist at CommSec. 

Craig James

Craig James

Craig James is the Chief Economist at CommSec, interpreting ‘big picture’ economic and financial trends.

Tags: 
Dwelling Values Housing Prices

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