Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian
Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

The housing sector certainly seems to have finished off 2016 with a bang. Home prices surged by 1.4 per cent in December, according to CommSec's latest economic update report.

But it was more encouraging to see that the lift in home prices was more uniform across the capital cities, and even regional house prices recorded a healthy lift.

No doubt the improvement in economic conditions and low interest rates continues to fuel the interest in property.

Resource states noted a decent lift in prices over December.

And looking forward the lift in commodity prices may mean that the mining towns have come through the worst of the downturn.

Overall policymakers will keep a close eye on the housing sector the early part of 2017, and will prefer to see more balanced house price growth across the nation.

And in particular a further lift in regional house prices would be a positive outcome.

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Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

Annual growth in home prices across regional centres is still just 2.8 per cent.

Global oil prices have risen steeply over the past couple of months, however motorists across some capital cities are still enjoying petrol at or below the cost price (terminal gate price).

In Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide pump prices are around $1.21-$1.23 a litre – only 3-5 cents above wholesale prices.

Essentially motorists using fuel discount dockets will be buying petrol below cost.

The low petrol prices are not sustainable and prices in these capital cities are likely to lift markedly in coming days.

Interestingly in Brisbane and Canberra, prices are closer to a $1.30 a litre, while prices in Perth are closer to $1.40 a litre.

The production cuts announced by OPEC and non-OPEC nations were the first in 15 years and highlight the underlying concern about over-supplied oil markets.

The focus now shifts to see if oil producers comply with the stated production cuts.

The early indications are that producers are already notifying customers in Asia, Europe and the US of cuts to oil deliveries from January.

Importantly for motorists it means higher pump prices in the medium-term.

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Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

The latest Australian manufacturing data is encouraging, suggesting that the current levels of interest rates and the Australian dollar are working in favour of domestic producers.

No doubt the sector is also benefitting from the stronger demand associated with the improved performance of the global economy.

The CoreLogic Home Value Index of capital city home prices surged by 1.4 per cent in December and was up 10.9 per cent over the year.

In regional Australia, house prices rose by 1.1 per cent in November and were just 2.8 per cent higher than a year ago. (Regional prices cover just houses and data is up to the end of November).

In capital cities, house prices rose by 1.4 per cent in December while apartment prices fell by 0.3 per cent.

House prices were up 11.6 per cent on a year ago and apartments were up by 5.9 per cent.

The average Australian capital city house price (median price based on settled sales over quarter) was $650,000 and the average unit price was $536,000.

Dwelling prices rose in five of the eight capital cities in December: Hobart (up 3.3 per cent), Melbourne (up 3.1 per cent), Perth (up 1.4 per cent), Sydney (up 0.9 per cent), and Brisbane (up 0.6 per cent). Prices fell in Adelaide (down 2.0 per cent), followed by Canberra (down 0.3 per cent) and Darwin (down 0.1 per cent).

Home prices were higher than a year ago in seven of the eight capital cities. Prices rose most in Sydney (up 15.5 per cent); followed by Melbourne (up 13.7 per cent), Hobart (up 11.2 per cent); Canberra (up 9.3 per cent); Adelaide (up 4.2 per cent), Brisbane (up 3.6 per cent) and Darwin (up 0.9 per cent). Prices fell in Perth (down by 4.3 per cent).

Total returns on capital city dwellings rose by 14.7 per cent in calendar year 2016 with houses up 15.3 per cent on a year earlier and units up 10.4 per cent.

The Performance of Manufacturing index rose by 1.2 points to 55.4 in December. A reading above 50.0 indicates that the sector is expanding.

AIG notes “Six of the seven activity sub-indexes in the Australian PMI® improved from November. Strong expansions in new orders (60.6 points) and sales (58.8 points) continued in December, while exports surged ahead (68.5 points), Production (58.2 points) also expanded more strongly while deliveries (52.4 points) continued to grow.

Employment (47.4 points) slipped in December, in line with recently weaker jobs growth. Five of the eight sub-sectors in the Australian PMI® expanded in December (three month moving averages).”

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Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

“Comments from manufacturers in December indicate that demand (albeit somewhat mixed) appears to be improving again after a weak patch in the latter half of 2016.

The recovery in commodity prices has led to better conditions for manufacturers exposed to the mining sector, with some revival of mining investment and maintenance spending.

However, surging energy costs, weaker local demand and slower spending on particular major projects is depressing activity for some manufacturers.”

Today the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at a 14-month high of 118.4 cents a litre, up by 1.8 cents a litre over the week. The terminal gate diesel price stands at 115.1 cents a litre, up by 1.2 cents a litre over the previous week.

On Friday, the key Singapore gasoline price stood at a 16-month high of US$69.76 a barrel, up by US$1.66 or 2.4 per cent over the week.

In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price rose by $2.94 a barrel or 3.1 per cent to $96.82 a barrel or 60.89 cents a litre.

MotorMouth records the following retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 121.2c; Melbourne 123.1c; Brisbane 129.8c; Adelaide 121.6c; Perth 138.9c; Canberra 127.7c; Darwin 129.3c; Hobart 128.7c.

Weekly figures on petrol prices are compiled by ORIMA Research on behalf of the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP).

National average retail prices are calculated as the weighted average of each State/Territory's metropolitan and non-metropolitan retail petrol prices, with the weights based on the number of registered petrol vehicles in each of these regions.

AIP data for retail petrol prices is based on available market data supplied by MotorMouth.

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Major city home prices soar and mining towns get through the worst: Savanth Sebastian

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.

Petrol prices are headed higher. And given that petrol is the single biggest weekly purchase that most families make, higher pump prices may serve to restrain growth in spending.

If home prices lift too quickly policymakers will once again raise concerns about the need for a further tightening in lending standards.

Savanth Sebastian is a senior economist for CommSec.

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