MacroScope

How to play down a housing boom like it’s 1999

Here’s some of the top reasons from a 1999 Reuters poll on why a housing bubble wouldn’t form, which are re-appearing 14 years later.

The Bank of England will stop a bubble forming

    2013: “If there’s another bubble, the Bank of England and the Government of course have means by which we can anticipate that and ensure that that doesn’t happen again.” – Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the UK Treasury.
    1999 Reuters poll: ”Economists and property specialists say the Bank of England won’t let another inflationary boom happen. The Bank has already said it will monitor house prices closely. ‘It’s unlikely to become inflationary unless the monetary policy stance becomes too loose and that’s highly unlikely,’ said economist Trevor Williams of Lloyds Bank TSB.”

 

House prices expressed in real terms are below their peak and affordability is better

    2013: “Some have questioned whether new risks are emerging in the housing market. This debate would benefit from a little less assertion and a little more examination of the evidence. House prices are down a quarter from their peak in real terms, and relative to earnings they are back at 2003 levels.” –George Osborne, finance minister 1999 Reuters poll: “‘In real terms, they are still 24 percent below what they were at the peak of the boom in the 1989 third quarter,’ said John Stewart, (then) economic adviser to the House Builders’ Federation. ‘If you look at the UK as a whole, house prices have only fairly recently passed 1989 in nominal terms.’ Other differences with the (1980s) boom years include the affordability of property. The ratio of prices to salaries, a yardstick of whether houses are overvalued, is now three times average earnings – in line with long-term trends. In the late 1980s, house prices jumped to five times average earnings.”

The average UK mix-adjusted house price in August 2013 was 247,000 pounds ($394,000), according to the Office for National Statistics. In 1999, it was 96,000.

 

Activity is far below peak levels

    2013: “We need to put recent developments in the housing market in some context. Activity levels, mortgage applications, valuations are still below. There are pockets where this is different, as you’re well aware. But across the nation, they’re still in the range of two-thirds to three-quarters of pre-crisis levels. We do need to be vigilant about this, but we also need to look at the starting point.” – Mark Carney, Bank of England governor. 1999 Reuters poll: ”Another factor making this market different is that turnover is much lower. ‘Throughout the 1980s, transactions were around 1.8 million every year and over two million at the peak in 1989,’ said Alex Bannister, (then) group economist at the Nationwide Building Society. ‘We expect 1.45 million transactions this year – quite a strong number but still half a million down on the peak.’”

 

Stocks to rise? 85 percent say yes – as ever

Even a government shutdown and the prospect of an unprecedented U.S. government default – no matter how small – couldn’t shake the conviction among equity analysts that stock markets only have further to rise.

Published on Tuesday, the latest Reuters poll collected more than 450 points of data from hundreds of analysts worldwide on how 20 of the world’s biggest stock markets will perform from now until the end of the year.

Some 85 percent of forecasts predicted a positive return for stock markets between now and end-December. Thursday brought firming hopes of a  deal to ensure the U.S. does not default on its debt, and global shares have lifted for a second day on Friday. That strong consensus could well prove correct.

Forecasts for the euro zone depend more on head office location than analysis

Ask an economist a question about the euro zone, and the answer will as much depend on the location of their head office as any analysis of the data.

It’s been noted before (herehere, and here), but economists and fund managers working for euro zone-based banks and research houses tend to be optimists about the euro zone. Everywhere else – including Britain, North America and the Nordics – they tend to be pessimists.

That familiar pattern was plain to see in the latest Reuters poll this week, as economists were asked on whether borrowing costs for struggling euro zone countries like Spain and Italy were likely to return to danger levels in the next few months.

Yellen likely to replace Bernanke at Fed, but beware “overwhelming” top picks

Reuters has just published a poll of economists that shows Federal Reserve Vice-Chair Janet Yellen is the overwhelming favorite pick for President Obama to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed Chairman next year.

The poll conclusions are based on the collective thoughts of dozens of professionals who are not only paid to make these kinds of predictions, but who are also likely to have been in a conversation with people who ought to know.

But it is worth noting one spectacularly wrong call from recent history.

In a similar Reuters poll, this time just days before UK finance minister George Osborne reported that he had chosen Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, as new Bank of England Governor, the overwhelming conclusion among forecasters was that outgoing governor Mervyn King’s deputy, Paul Tucker, would get the job.

Small rays of hope brightened Canada’s economic outlook last week

 All data released last week point to a far better first quarter growth in Canada than previously expected, prompting economists to revise up their predictions.

In a Reuters poll conducted early last month, forecasters predicted that Canada’s economy expanded by just 1.6 percent on an annualised basis in the first three months of this year.

But that consensus could prove to be too low, with many now expecting growth to be close to 2 percent or even higher, likely a welcome sign for Stephen Poloz who was named Bank of Canada’s new governor last Thursday and will replace Mark Carney on June 3.

Ignore the noise around Britain’s GDP figures

One of two stories will probably emerge from Friday’s first reading on how the British economy fared at the end of last year.

If it shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter as the consensus of economists polled by Reuters expects, or worse, we will hear it raises the disastrous spectre of a third recession in four years, or a “triple-dip”.

If it defies expectations by growing slightly, that risk is averted and the government will say it shows the economy is getting back on its feet.

Banking on a Portuguese bailout?

portgualprotest.jpgReuters polls of economists over the last few weeks have come up with some pretty firm conclusions about both Ireland and Portugal needing a bailout from the European Union.

Portuguese 10-year government bond yields have hovered stubbornly above 7 percent since the Irish bailout announcement, hitting a euro-lifetime high and giving ammunition to those who say Lisbon will be forced into a bailout.

And of those who hold that view, it’s clear that bank economists have been most vocal in expecting Ireland and Portugal to seek outside help.

Slowing growth, MPC splits? That’s so 2008

Sixties nostalgia was all the rage in the late 90s, and towards the end of the last decade we looked back only 20 years or so for a massive 80s revival in electronic pop and fashion.

INDONESIA/With the 2010s in full flow, the current vogue of choice derives from just two years ago – at least among those noted trendsetters, economists.

Back in mid-2008, the signs for the UK economy were confusing and ominous. Inflation was too high, forward-looking indicators pointed to a slowdown of some sort in the near future, and the July minutes of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee showed they debated both easing and tightening interest rate policy.

A jagged global recovery… but still no double dip

The latest Reuters quarterly economic outlook, based on surveys of more than 600 economists across Asia, Europe and North America smells a bit of danger.

cracked earth.jpgGrowth is looking very uneven. Inflation is a worry here but not there. Unemployment looks to remain perilously high.

It also has a whiff of the surveys Reuters conducted a few years ago just before the Great Recession set in, when economists were saying we’d all muddle through with a bit of a slowdown and don’t worry about a thing. How wrong they got that one.