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Monday, February 1, 2016

Bullion Baron's Australian Property Chart Pack

Residex updated their property indices to December 2015 on Friday. I have created some charts with the latest data which may be of interest to readers. Those who follow me on Twitter may already recognise a few of them. Click on any of the charts for a larger size.

Sydney's mental house price growth over the last few years. Is the peak in? I think at the minimum we have a cyclical peak forming (aka: Sydney late 2003/early 2004, expecting perhaps a 10%+ fall in the Sydney median and a nominal peak not being surpassed for 4-6 years), but Australia's expensive property market has not really been tested by a sizable economic downturn, we could see much larger falls in event we had one.

What juiced house prices? A variety of factors, but the RBA cutting interest rates to very low levels certainly didn't help any, you can see the booms follow each rate cut cycle and growth slows or prices correct with each rate hike cycle.

It would seem that interest rates are winning out versus the unemployment rate, Adelaide house prices have risen despite a rising unemployment rate in South Australia.

I wouldn't call Adelaide house prices 'cheap', but compared with Sydney they are looking far less expensive (& the rent vs buy cost comparison isn't looking too bad). This ratio shows we are back at levels when Sydney last peaked. That suggests to me that price growth is likely to be higher in Adelaide (compared with Sydney) for the foreseeable future...

And here is a chart showing the last major cyclical correction in Sydney versus Adelaide's prices since its peak from 2011.

Adelaide house prices have passed their previous peak, while unit prices are still languishing around the same price they were back in 2010.

Sydney's house price ratio with Brisbane shows Brisbane is also comparatively far less expensive.

When comparing Brisbane and Adelaide using a ratio we can see they trade within a much smaller range and the ratio suggests Adelaide is less expensive than Brisbane, though very close to the middle of the range.

Growth in these cities (Brisbane and Adelaide) has trended quite closely with the data that's available.

Likewise growth in Sydney and Melbourne track quite closely. I expect both will see their AAGR (Average Annual Growth Rate) roll over to the downside in 2016.


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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Koalaty Bullion Silver Coin For 2016

It's been awhile since I've strongly recommended a particular bullion silver coin on this site, but the last I recall was the 2014 1oz Bullion Silver Wedge-Tailed Eagle. That coin was available for A$29 per coin on release and now sell for well over $40 ($60'ish on ebay individually or low to mid $40's by the roll elsewhere). That is despite a drop in the spot price of silver over the same period. I have since sold the box of those I bought. So here's my next tip... lame jokes aside I think the 2016 1oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin from Perth Mint is a solid 'buy' (provided you pay a reasonable premium, under A$7 per coin over spot).

Many of the sought after, mintage limited Perth Mint bullion silver coins have held their values (or at least cushioned the blow compared with low premium products) even as the spot price has tanked in recent years. An example being the 2012 1oz Bullion Silver Lunar Dragon Coins I bought in late 2011 for circa $38-42 per coin (pre-ordered from various dealers before release), despite spot price falling some 40% lower since then I recently sold some rolls of these for around what I paid. Not a great return admittedly (break even over 4 years held), but still a far better return than on low premium silver bars. I like many of Perth Mint's silver bullion coins as a hedge against spot price downside as premiums increase with demand for the specific coin. Of course like any investment, there are no guarantees that premium holds and you do need to pick carefully.

I have not been that impressed with the koala coin designs from Perth Mint for some time. In many instances the illustration is fine, it just hasn't translated that well into coin from (the below is from 2012):

However, in my view the 2016 design is a cut above any others since 2010:

Furthermore Perth Mint is now limiting the mintage of the 1oz coin to 300,000, this is far lower than the declared mintage of some other recent years:

20071oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2007137,768
20081oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 200884,057
20091oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2009336,757
20101oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2010233,531
20111oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2011910,480
20121oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2012388,046
20131oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2013477,209
20141oz Bullion Silver Koala Coin 2014334,884

The 2015 coin has sales recorded to the end of 2014 of 96,297, obviously that will see a substantial jump once updated with more recent numbers. I would be very surprised if the declared mintage is lower than 300,000, my guess would be somewhere between 350,000 and 450,000.

These coins:

- Have a low mintage
- Sport an aesthetically pleasing design
- Are housed in individual capsules
- Have a quality finish
- Are produced by world renowned Perth Mint
- Come with legal tender status And are priced as bullion coins on release.

With the recent upgrade in facilities at Perth Mint to pump out their new low premium bullion kangaroo coin, this has resulted in higher coin sales (chart via Smaulgld) and ultimately wider distribution which I expect will bring more eyes and investor/collector interest to other bullion coin series they have, such as the aforementioned koala.

I have not purchased any myself as I'm lacking room in my safe deposit box/es, but it's likely to be the only silver bullion I buy in bulk quantities this year if I do so.


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Monday, January 4, 2016

Don't Live And Die Waiting For The Big Crash

I saw The Big Short recently and this quote flashed up on the screen:
“Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.” ― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
But my advice would be not to live your whole life waiting for, planning for, or even hoping for, the next "big crash" (either of the financial system or housing market, arguably the two are joined at the hip in many modern economies).

That might sound odd coming from someone who's analysis, speculation and investments led them to buy a lot of precious metals and write under a handle like 'Bullion Baron'. Some readers may picture me as a nutter with a bunker full of long life food, guns and Gold, just waiting to live out the financial apocalypse 'doomsday prepper' style, but the reality is far less intense.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be prepared for and insure yourself against financial catastrophe, but once you have done so, go out and live a little. The last significant purchase of Gold I made was in late 2014 (after accumulating in the dips periodically in the 6 years prior). I have recently felt comfortable buying a home again in my local property market, Adelaide. I have also been spending a fair amount of time and capital over the last several months working on a new business venture (one reason my posts here have been less frequent) and with the recent news that the Australian government will be incentivising investment in startups I may continue to put money in this space.

In a comparison of renting vs buying (Rent vs Buy: An Adelaide "Cost Comparison" Revisted), the financial burden of buying has fallen substantially over the last half a decade as rents have increased (moderately), prices stagnated and interest rates fell. I still think Adelaide property prices have some tough headwinds ahead, the state economy is still struggling (highest unemployment rate in the country) and prices may yet fall again, but I expect them to outperform the likes of Sydney or Melbourne over the next 5 years (even if that means prices fall less in Adelaide).

Sydney house prices grew far more than in Adelaide over the last 7 years
While I'd agree with many housing permabears, that house prices are high in Australia (it is an expensive market, perhaps even a bubble in some cities/regions), they have also remained at elevated levels (relative to incomes) for well over a decade. Whether they correct back to past levels or not should be of no concern if you are treating housing as a consumption good.
I would never discourage others who want the stability of ownership and are prepared to treat housing as a consumable (rather than an investment) from buying. If you have a healthy deposit (preferably one that will help you avoid LMI), fixed interest rate (or able to service higher interest rates), protect yourself (income protection, cash buffer, etc) and expect to stay in the property you purchase for the long term (until mortgage paid off), then it shouldn't matter what prices do (rise, fall or stagnate). - Bullion Baron
Despite buying a home and investing in a new business, I still think the risks to the financial system are immense and I'm in no hurry to reduce my exposure to one of the assets that I still expect to flourish as financial instability returns.

By the way, I looked up the quote from The Big Short when the movie finished as I was interested to see where it came from and it's context. The book it came from, 1Q84, is a novel originating in Japan. The paragraph reads:
Sometime after that, Aomame happened to see the movie On the Beach on late-night television. It was an American movie made around 1960. Total war broke out between the U.S. and the USSR and a huge number of missiles were launched between the continents like schools of flying fish. The earth was annihilated, and humanity was wiped out in almost every part of the world. Thanks to the prevailing winds or something, however, the ashes of death still hadn’t reached Australia in the Southern Hemisphere, though it was just a matter of time. The extinction of the human race was simply unavoidable. The surviving human beings there could do nothing but wait for the end to come. They chose different ways to live out their final days. That was the plot. It was a dark movie offering no hope of salvation. (Though, watching it, Aomame reconfirmed her belief that everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.)
Wikipedia describes Aomame (and another character in the story) as 'long-lost lovers who are drawn into a distorted version of reality'. I don't think it would be wise to live by the beliefs of this fictional character, rather you should ensure you are prepared for the worst case scenario, but once you have done so live life to the fullest.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Defining a Housing Bubble

When the prices of securities or other assets rise so sharply and at such a sustained rate that they exceed valuations justified by fundamentals, making a sudden collapse likely - at which point the bubble "bursts". Financial Times
A spike in asset values within a particular industry, commodity, or asset class. A speculative bubble is usually caused by exaggerated expectations of future growth, price appreciation, or other events that could cause an increase in asset values. This drives trading volumes higher, and as more investors rally around the heightened expectation, buyers outnumber sellers, pushing prices beyond what an objective analysis of intrinsic value would suggest. The bubble is not completed until prices fall back down to normalized levels; this usually involves a period of steep decline in price during which most investors panic and sell out of their investments. - Investopedia
A bubble is an upward price movement over an extended period of fifteen to forty months that then implodes. - Charles Kindleberger

A lot of people have been using the term ‘bubble’ to describe the Australian housing market, others say we don’t have one and Former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson recently suggested it was the wrong question to be asking (i.e. do we have a bubble?), a comment I recently agreed with.

The problem with debating whether or not we have a bubble is that, like the term affordability, it’s definition is subjective.

I provided a few definitions of an 'asset bubble' above, one thing they all have in common is the need for the eventual ‘pop’. So analysts, economists, bloggers, property commentators and perma-bears can rave on all they like about a housing bubble in Australia, but the proof of having had one will be when and if it bursts.

That leaves us with a question though, what size and speed of decline do we need to see in order to confirm the bubble? The above definitions use terms that indicate a quick outcome, 'sudden collapse', 'steep decline', 'panic' and 'implodes', these all indicate a fast and substantial decline. I think anyone arguing that the 'Australian housing bubble' will burst by a slow paced, long term decline in price (real or nominal) is not really describing the bursting of a bubble at all, but rather a slow revaluation of the asset based on the deteriorating fundamentals.

Here is a chart I posted on Twitter over the weekend (click to enlarge):

I would suggest one of these cities had an obviously bubble (Las Vegas) which was confirmed by the bursting price, but what of the other two cities? In my opinion Boston's price decline was not a bursting housing bubble (it's decline was not steep and sudden as it was in Las Vegas), but rather was impacted by the conditions caused by the GFC and credit conditions resulting form the bursting of housing bubbles elsewhere in the United States and was probably overdue some sort of correction. That might also be the case for Adelaide (included on the above chart) and some other Australian cities which aren't experiencing strong price growth.

At it's peak the United States had a bifurcated housing market just as we have in Australia now with unsustainable rates of annual price growth in Sydney and Melbourne, but only moderate growth (at best, if not negative) in most other locations. Cameron Kusher posted a great chart on Twitter recently which highlights differences in price growth since the GFC.

Capital city home value growth since GFC - Dec-08 to Sep-15

Is 10-15% growth over (almost) 7 years the sort of price increase you'd expect to see in an 'asset bubble'?

Now I'm not arguing that Australian property (anywhere) is cheap or affordable (see the first few charts in this post), there is no doubt in my mind that it's historically and globally expensive, but that doesn't mean that every Australian capital city is in a bubble (and going to pop), nor that the Australian housing market should be considered a bubble as a whole.

There's a good chance it will be years before we can confirm whether any Australian capitals are in a property bubble right now or simply expensive/somewhat overvalued. My best guess is that Sydney and Melbourne could be in bubbles and peak this year experiencing a steep decline in price over the years ahead, but some other Australian cities like Adelaide and Brisbane I expect may only experience modest declines. For example if Adelaide saw a 10% nominal decline into 2017 (which I think is a possibility given weak economic factors), then it would result in growth having been 0% over the previous 9 years.

Whatever lies ahead I wish more commentators would define what they consider a bubble to be, because it's become clear to me that some individuals have a completely different opinion of what the term means.
If you have a view on what differentiates expensive or overvalued property to an actual property bubble and what we will need to see from Australian property prices (or in one of the capitals) to confirm we've had one here then I'd be interested to hear your opinion in the comments below...


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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Australian Houses Priced in Gold / Silver Ounces (2015)

Every 12 months I have been updating the data I keep on Australian house prices measured in ounces of Gold and Silver. Here is the latest update which takes us through to July 2015 (inclusive).

Data for house prices is via Residex (median house price indices).

Data for Gold and Silver prices is via Perth Mint (bid average AUD).

I have added Perth and Adelaide house price charts to the mix this year, but note the time frame is different to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (due to limitations on available Residex data).

Key Figures:

Adelaide (Ounces to buy a house) 
Housing Peak Against Gold (February 2005): 501oz Gold
Latest Figures (July 2015): 282oz Gold, 21,439oz Silver
Based on Current Spot Price: 271oz Gold, 21,375oz Silver

Brisbane (Ounces to buy a house)
Precious Metals Peak (January 1980): 62oz Gold, 1091oz Silver
Housing Peak Against Gold (February 2004): 600oz Gold
Latest Figures (July 2015): 321oz Gold, 24,448oz Silver
Based on Current Spot Price: 309oz Gold, 24,375oz Silver

Melbourne (Ounces to buy a house)
Precious Metals Peak (January 1980): 67oz Gold, 1181oz Silver
Housing Peak Against Gold (February 2004): 661oz Gold
Latest Figures (July 2015): 450oz Gold, 34,253oz Silver
Based on Current Spot Price: 432oz Gold, 34,150oz Silver

Perth (Ounces to buy a house)
Housing Peak Against Gold (July 2007): 642oz Gold
Latest Figures (July 2015): 342oz Gold, 26,078oz Silver
Based on Current Spot Price: 329oz Gold, 26,000oz Silver

Sydney (Ounces to buy a house)
Precious Metals Peak (January 1980): 103oz Gold, 1811oz Silver
Housing Peak Against Gold (February 2004): 1100oz Gold

Latest Figures (July 2015): 670oz Gold, 51,028oz Silver
Based on Current Spot Price: 644oz Gold, 50,875oz Silver
(Spot Price ratio calculated on A$20oz for Silver, A$1580oz for Gold and July house prices)

A point of interest, Gold has outperformed most capitals since the last update, rising from $1360 in June 2014 to $1518 in July 2015. This has resulted in most cities seeing the ratio fall. That is with the exception of Sydney where house prices have outperformed Gold and rose a blistering 21% YoY to July 2015.

It's also interesting how much later the peak for Perth property (to Gold) came as house prices boomed there into 2006/2007.

My view going forward has not really changed from my update last year: "Over the same period (next 3-5 years) I expect rising precious metal prices and a lower Australian Dollar, so do think investors stacking ounces for the eventual purchase of a house will be rewarded (even those in Sydney). Only time will tell if I'm right."

Here are the charts (click any to enlarge).


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