SHANGHAI — China’s economic growth continued to decelerate in the third quarter, as gross domestic product came in at 4.9%, softened by the country’s zero-tolerance COVID measures and energy shortages.
The year-on-year GDP growth rate, published on Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics for the three-month period through September, was below the median 5% expansion forecast by 29 economists in a Nikkei poll released earlier this month.
The figure slid from 7.9% for the April-to-June quarter, weighed down by high commodity prices amid uncertainty kindled by the China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis, which is piling risk onto the property and banking sectors.
The reading also reflects weak overall activity, including in manufacturing and consumer spending. Retail sales of consumer goods, a barometer of household spending, edged up by 4.4% in September, compared to 2.5% in August, but was still well below the double-digit growth that had continued till June.
Certain factors have persuaded economists to be cautious, at least for the near term. Rising coal prices are hitting the profitability of electricity providers, making the utilities reluctant to generate power. As it prioritizes supplying power to sectors that touch everyday life, the government is capping supplies to the steel, cement and other energy-intensive industries. The result has been less production and more inflation.
The statistics office last week announced that the producer price index for manufactured goods in September rose by 10.7% from a year earlier, the strongest surge in the past 25 years, as far back as comparable data goes.
The government forecasts China’s economy to grow 6% for all of 2021, the International Monetary Fund projects 8% and the Asian Development Bank 8.1%.
The economy expanded 9.8% in the first nine months of the year, largely driven by trade as both exports and imports jumped nearly 23% in yuan terms.
Service sector growth of 19.3%, led by software and information technology services, also stoked the nine-month expansion.
The statistics office said GDP grew 0.2% in the third quarter from the previous three months, which the U.K.’s Capital Economics noted is the second lowest since China began revealing such data in 2010.
Growth lost more steam in September as industrial production slid to 3.1% from 5.3% in August, while the official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 49.6. It slipped below 50 — which the statistics office says “reflects the overall economy is in recession” — for the first time since February 2020.
Meanwhile, officials have been playing down the country’s power crunch and worries over the Evergrande crisis.
“The energy supply shortage is temporary, and its impact on the economy is controllable,” Fu Lingxuan, the National Bureau of Statistics’ spokesperson told reporters on Monday, citing recent measures to boost coal supply.
Zou Lan, head of financial markets at the country’s central bank, said Evergrande had “blindly diversified and expanded business,” urging the property group to offload assets to raise funds to pay off debts.
“The risk exposure of individual financial institutions to Evergrande is not big and the spillover effect for the financial sector is controllable,” Zou said on Friday.
While fallout from the power shortages and concerns over the property market may have eased from September, their impact on China’s broader economy should not be underestimated and will be a major downside risk in the fourth quarter, warned Shanghai-based Yue Su, principal economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.
“The slowdown in the property sector will affect the activities of firms in areas such as construction contracting, building materials and home furnishing,” said Su, adding that energy-intensive industries will face rising costs as well.
Hong Kong-based Tommy Wu of Oxford Economics said policymakers are likely to take more steps to shore up growth, including ensuring ample liquidity in the interbank market, accelerating infrastructure development and relaxing some aspects of overall credit and real estate policies.
And not all economists agree with China’s official data.
Julian Evans-Pritchard of U.K.-based Capital Economics said the research firm’s in-house measure, the China Activity Proxy, tracked a sharp 3.9% quarter-on-quarter contraction in the third quarter, compared to a 3.0% expansion in the previous quarter.
“For now, the blow from the deepening property downturn is being softened by very strong exports,” said Evans-Pritchard. “But over the coming year, foreign demand is likely to drop back as global consumption patterns normalize coming out of the pandemic and backlogs of orders are gradually cleared.”
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped as much as 0.92% on Monday morning, before closing for the midday break down 0.35%.
the historical PPP GDP figures of Mainland China and exchange rates of Chinese yuan to Int’l. dollar are based on the World Economic Outlook Database April 2019 “Download WEO Data: April 2019 Edition” (Press release). International Monetary Fund. April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
the historical PPP GDP figures of Mainland China and exchange rates of Chinese yuan to Int’l. dollar are based on the World Economic Outlook Database October 2019 “Download WEO Data: October 2019 Edition” (Press release). International Monetary Fund. October 2019. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
Quarterly GDP data: national data. stats.gov.cn. February 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
The outlook for the global economy darkened as a stream of data from Europe and Asia suggested growth faltered in the third quarter, hobbled by world-wide supply-chain snarls, sharply accelerating inflation and the impact of the highly contagious Delta variant.
U.S. inflation accelerated last month and remained at its highest rate in over a decade, with price increases from pandemic-related labor and materials shortages rippling through the economy from a year earlier.
The Labor Department said last month’s consumer-price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, rose by 5.4%
The gap between yields on shorter- and longer-term Treasury’s narrowed Wednesday after data showed inflation accelerated slightly in September, fueled by investors’ bets that the Federal Reserve may need to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected. Measures of inflation in China and the U.S. highlight this week’s economic data.
China’s exports, long a growth engine for the country’s economy, are expected to increase 21% from a year earlier in September, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. That is down from a 25.6% gain in August. Meanwhile, inbound shipments are forecast to rise 19.1% from a year earlier, retreating from the 33.1% jump in August.
The International Monetary Fund releases its World Economic Outlook report during annual meetings. The latest forecasts are likely to underscore the relatively quick economic rebound of advanced economies alongside a slower recovery in developing nations with less access to Covid-19 vaccines.
China’s factory-gate prices for September are expected to surge 10.4% from a year earlier, a pace that would surpass its previous peak in 2008, according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. Higher commodity costs have led to the rise in producer prices this year, but so far that hasn’t fed through to consumer inflation. Economists forecast the consumer-price index rose only 0.7% from a year earlier in September.
September’s U.S. consumer-price index is expected to show inflation remained elevated as companies passed along higher costs for materials and labor. Rising energy prices likely contributed to the headline CPI, while core prices, which exclude food and energy, might start to reflect climbing shelter costs.
The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its September meeting, potentially offering additional insight on plans to start reducing pandemic-related stimulus.
U.S. jobless claims are forecast to fall for the second consecutive week as employers hold on to workers in a tight labor market. The data on claims, a proxy for layoffs, will cover the week ended Oct. 9.
U.S. retail sales are expected to fall in September. U.S. consumers appear to be in decent financial shape, but Covid-related caution, rising prices and widespread supply-chain disruptions are tamping down purchases. The auto industry has been especially hard hit by a semiconductor shortage—separate data released earlier this month show U.S. vehicle sales in September fell to their lowest level since early in the pandemic.
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The IMF, a grouping made up of 190 member states, promotes international financial stability and monetary cooperation. It also acts as a lender of last resort for countries in financial crisis.
In the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, the group’s economists say the most important policy priority is to vaccinate sufficient numbers of people in every country to prevent dangerous mutations of the virus. He stressed the importance of meeting major economies’ pledges to provide vaccines and financial support for international vaccination efforts before new versions derail. “Policy choices have become more difficult … with limited scope,” IMF economists said in the report.
The IMF in its July report cut its global growth forecast for 2021 from 6% to 5.9%, a result of a reduction in its projection for advanced economies from 5.6% to 5.2%. The shortage mostly reflects problems with the global supply chain that causes a mismatch between supply and demand.
For emerging markets and developing economies, the outlook improved. Growth in these economies is pegged at 6.4% for 2021, higher than the 6.3% estimate in July. The strong performance of some commodity-exporting countries accelerated amid rising energy prices.
The group maintained its view that the global growth rate would be 4.9% in 2022.
In key economics, the growth outlook for the US was lowered by 0.1 percentage point to 6% this year, while the forecast for China was also cut by 0.1 percentage point to 8%. Several other major economies saw their outlook cut, including Germany, whose economy is now projected to grow 3.1% this year, down 0.5 percent from its July forecast. Japan’s outlook was down 0.4 per cent to 2.4%.
While the IMF believes that inflation will return to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2022, it also warns that the negative effects of inflation could be exacerbated if the pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions become more damaging and prolonged. become permanent over time. This may result in earlier tightening of monetary policy by central banks, leading to recovery back.
The IMF says that supply constraints, combined with stimulus-based consumer appetite for goods, have caused a sharp rise in consumer prices in the US, Germany and many other countries.
Food-price hikes have placed a particularly severe burden on households in poor countries. The IMF’s Food and Beverage Price Index rose 11.1% between February and August, with meat and coffee prices rising 30% and 29%, respectively.
The IMF now expects consumer-price inflation in advanced economies to reach 2.8% in 2021 and 2.3% in 2022, up from 2.4% and 2.1%, respectively, in its July report. Inflationary pressures are even greater in emerging and developing economies, with consumer prices rising 5.5% this year and 4.9% the following year.
Gita Gopinath, economic advisor and research director at the IMF, wrote, “While monetary policy can generally see through a temporary increase in inflation, central banks should be prepared to act swiftly if the risks to rising inflation expectations are high. become more important in this unchanged recovery.” Report.
While rising commodity prices have fueled some emerging and developing economies, many of the world’s poorest countries have been left behind, as they struggle to gain access to the vaccines needed to open their economies. More than 95% of people in low-income countries have not been vaccinated, in contrast to immunization rates of about 60% in wealthy countries.
IMF economists urged major economies to provide adequate liquidity and debt relief for poor countries with limited policy resources. “The alarming divergence in economic prospects remains a major concern across the country,” said Ms. Gopinath.
Yuka Hayashi covers trade and international economy from The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. Previously, she wrote about financial regulation and elder protection. Before her move to Washington in 2015, she was a Journal correspondent in Japan covering regional security, economy and culture. She has also worked for Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters in New York and Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @tokyowoods
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European and UK gas prices surged Wednesday to record peaks, energised by fears of runaway demand in the upcoming northern hemisphere winter. Europe’s reference Dutch TTF gas price hit 162.12 euros per megawatt hour and UK prices leapt to 407.82 pence per therm in morning deals.
However, prices later erased gains to flatline in early afternoon trade. “It’s panic and fear with winter just around the corner,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch told AFP.
Soaring gas prices — coupled with oil which has struck multi-year highs — have fuelled fears over spiking inflation and rocketing domestic energy bills. Gas demand is also heightened in Asia, particularly from China, while key Russian exports are falling.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Wednesday that Europe was to blame for the current energy crisis, after soaring gas prices spurred accusations that Moscow is withholding supplies to pressure the West.
“They’ve made mistakes,” Putin said in a televised meeting with Russian energy officials. He said that one of the factors influencing the prices was the termination of “long-term contracts” in favour of the spot market.
Some critics have accused Moscow of intentionally limiting gas supplies to Europe in an effort to hasten the launch of Nord Stream 2, a controversial pipeline connecting Russia with Germany.
At the same time, global gas stockpiles remain worryingly low.
“Natural gas prices have climbed to new peaks … as insufficient levels of inventories ahead of the winter season drive concerns for a spike in inflation and energy prices for consumers,” XTB analyst Walid Koudmani told AFP.
“These supply constraints could translate into higher costs of fuel moving into the winter months, a prospect which could further slow down economic recovery and worsen moods across markets.”
Europe’s energy crisis has also been exacerbated by a lack of wind for turbine sites, coupled with ongoing nuclear outages — and the winding down of coal mines by climate-conscious governments.
Gas demand has also galloped higher in recent months as economies reopened worldwide from their Covid-induced slumber. “The rebound in industrial activity across the world following months of Covid-related restrictions and widespread remote working … boosted demand for natural gas,” noted UniCredit economist Edoardo Campanella.
European gas futures have now multiplied by eight since April. And the market is set to shoot even higher, according to French bank Societe Generale. “Never before have power prices risen so far, so fast,” wrote Societe Generale analysts in a client note.
Shows evolution of the price of natural gas in Europe this past year to September 28 on the Dutch TTF Gas marketPhoto: AFP / Patricio ARANA
“And we are only a few days into autumn — temperatures are still mild. “A cold winter could cause severe problems for Europe’s energy markets, where politicians are already trying to contain the fallout.”
European leaders are divided on how to respond to the record rise in energy prices, with France and Spain calling Wednesday for bold EU-wide action, while others urged patience. The European Commission — which is the European Union’s executive arm — will next week propose measures to mitigate the price surge for consumers.
Those suggestions will then be discussed by the bloc’s leaders at a summit in Brussels on October 21-22. Britain is particularly exposed to Europe’s energy crisis because of its reliance on natural gas to generate electricity.
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Labor availability is the most-cited concern, and of the those experiencing hiring difficulties, 58 percent point to enhanced federal unemployment benefits as the culprit. With expanded federal unemployment benefits having ended on Labor Day — reducing unemployment pay by $300 a week — businesses widely believed this cut-off would lead to a surge in job applicants.
But the expected surge hasn’t yet materialized. A study released in late August authored by economists Kyle Coombs of Columbia University, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and others, showed that in the 22 states that ended these federal employment benefits earlier in June, there was only a small rise in employment in subsequent months — 4.4 percent.
Small businesses are now addressing the labor shortage directly by improving pay and benefits. Of those businesses surveyed, more than four in 10 say they’ve increased compensation to help attract and retain talent, and 44 percent have started allowing more flexible work arrangements. Nearly half have also begun implementing improved health and safety measures.
These changes don’t come without a cost. More than half (54 percent) of business owners surveyed say they anticipate raising prices to compensate for increased labor costs and inflation. Once this cost is passed on to consumers, individuals who previously received federal unemployment benefits may, at last, feel increasing financial pressure to re-enter the job market.
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Nobody likes dropping cash, however Tuesday’s stock-price fall worries me greater than the headline of a 2% fall within the S&P 500 ought to. In itself, 2% is not any biggie: three days this yr had larger falls, and on common we now have had seven worse days a yr since 1964.
What bothers me is that the rise in bond yields that triggered the autumn was actually fairly small, and there may simply be much more to return. The ten-year Treasury yield rose solely 0.05 share level, taking it above 1.5%, and the 30-year rose barely extra to only above 2%. If that is the type of response we should always anticipate, then get out your tin hat. Yields must rise 4 occasions as a lot simply to get again to the place they had been in March.
Why, you would possibly fairly ask, are shares abruptly spooked by bond yields? Within the increase as much as March, shares and yields marched increased collectively, and for the previous 20 years increased yields have typically been higher for shares. The distinction is that investors see the central banks turning hawkish, whilst financial development slows, as a result of they will’t ignore excessive inflation.
As Pascal Blanqué,chief funding officer at French fund supervisor Amundi, places it, the worry is of an increase in charges pushed by inflation alone pushing central banks to behave, somewhat than an increase in charges pushed by financial development pushing central banks round. That is the mind-set that dominated funding till the late Nineteen Nineties. If it sticks, it marks a profound change.
In the long term, it could imply bonds would not present a cushion when inventory costs drop, making portfolios extra unstable. Within the quick time period, if the sharp rise in yields since the Federal Reserve meeting last week is the beginning of a development, then shares are in bother. On the flip aspect, if yields come again down, it is perhaps good for shares—because it was on Friday—somewhat than unhealthy, as has often been the case for a few many years.
To see the risk, suppose again to the spring, when yields had been marching increased. The outlook for inflation is about the identical (buyers are pricing it as excessive however short-term). The outlook for financial development is worse, which gives much less help for shares typically. However central banks have shifted stance from super-easy for just about perpetually to start out speaking about tightening.
That is the improper type of rise in bond yields. When yields had been rising as much as their March excessive of 1.75% for the 10-year Treasury, shares had been on a tear as a result of yields had been being pushed up by the prospect of upper financial development, and so stronger income. Overwhelmed-up worth shares and economically-sensitive sectors soared, whereas Huge Tech and different development shares, plus the dependable earners generally known as high quality shares, went sideways. After March, falling yields boosted development and high quality shares once more, whereas worth and cyclical went sideways.
This time, shares are reacting as they do when yields rise as a consequence of a central financial institution hawkish shift. Huge Tech, other growth stocks and quality suffered the most, as their excessive valuations make them reliant on projected earnings far sooner or later; increased yields make these future earnings much less enticing in contrast with proudly owning tremendous secure bonds. However with out the prospect of upper financial development to spice up earnings, low cost worth and cyclical shares additionally fell when yields rose, albeit by lower than development and high quality.
There’s enormous uncertainty in regards to the potential financial outcomes, so we shouldn’t simply assume that this week’s buying and selling sample will proceed. On the plus aspect, increased capital spending and the pandemic-driven adoption of know-how would possibly enhance productiveness greater than employee shortages push up labor prices. This could damp inflation and speed up development.
A retreat of Covid-19 might ease pressure on manufacturing and change spending again to companies. On the down aspect, hovering power prices and better costs from widespread provide bottlenecks would possibly hit households and weaken the financial system additional, whilst inflation stays excessive—the dreaded stagflation state of affairs.
We ought to be even much less assured about how central banks will react. I see twin triggers for the market’s reassessment. First, Fed coverage makers upped their “dot plot” predictions for rates of interest subsequent yr and the yr after, together with inflation. Second, the Financial institution of England, faced with an energy price crunch and higher-than-forecast inflation, warned of a potential price rise earlier than the tip of this yr. A slew of emerging-market central banks additionally raised charges, as did oil-producer Norway.
If the financial system reacts badly to increased yields, although, the Fed and Financial institution of England would possibly properly shift again to uber-dovishness. The withdrawal of emergency authorities spending measures in a lot of the world may also give the doves a brand new cause to maintain charges low.
Lastly, there’s uncertainty in regards to the market response itself. Possibly Tuesday’s bond strikes had been exacerbated by a mixture of momentum promoting and yields (which transfer in the other way to costs) rising above the brink of 1.5% on the 10-year and a pair of% on the 30-year.It may not be a coincidence that shares did properly on Friday as soon as the 10-year dropped again under 1.5%.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
How involved are you in regards to the late September stock-price fall? Weigh in under. Spherical numbers shouldn’t matter, however typically do, whereas momentum is short-term. Tuesday’s transfer wasn’t pushed by an occasion on the day, so maybe the brand new narrative of hawkishness received stick. In spite of everything, it shouldn’t be that massive a deal to withdraw some financial help when inflation is greater than double the goal and coverage has by no means been simpler.
Given Huge Tech’s outsize share of the general market, buyers within the S&P 500 should be satisfied that if bond yields are going to maintain rising, it is going to be for the great cause of an accelerating financial system, not the unhealthy cause of sticky inflation pushing central banks to behave.
Soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon all hope of owning a home. The fallout is shaking governments of all political persuasions.
It’s a phenomenon given wings by the pandemic. And it’s not just buyers — rents are also soaring in many cities. The upshot is the perennial issue of housing costs has become one of acute housing inequality, and an entire generation is at risk of being left behind.
“We’re witnessing sections of society being shut out of parts of our city because they can no longer afford apartments,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller says. “That’s the case in London, in Paris, in Rome, and now unfortunately increasingly in Berlin.”
That exclusion is rapidly making housing a new fault line in politics, one with unpredictable repercussions. The leader of Germany’s Ver.di union called rent the 21st century equivalent of the bread price, the historic trigger for social unrest.
Politicians are throwing all sorts of ideas at the problem, from rent caps to special taxes on landlords, nationalizing private property, or turning vacant offices into housing. Nowhere is there evidence of an easy or sustainable fix.
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in’s party took a drubbing in mayoral elections this year after failing to tackle a 90% rise in the average price of an apartment in Seoul since he took office in May 2017. The leading opposition candidate for next year’s presidential vote has warned of a potential housing market collapse as interest rates rise.
China has stepped up restrictions on the real-estate sector this year and speculation is mounting of a property tax to bring down prices. The cost of an apartment in Shenzhen, China’s answer to Silicon Valley, was equal to 43.5 times a resident’s average salary as of July, a disparity that helps explain President Xi Jinping’s drive for “common prosperity.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a two-year ban on foreign buyers if re-elected.
The pandemic has stoked the global housing market to fresh records over the past 18 months through a confluence of ultralow interest rates, a dearth of house production, shifts in family spending and fewer homes being put up for sale. While that’s a boon for existing owners, prospective buyers are finding it ever harder to gain entry.
What we’re witnessing is “a major event that should not be shrugged off or ignored,” Don Layton, the former CEO of U.S. mortgage giant Freddie Mac, wrote in a commentary for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
In the U.S., where nominal home prices are more than 30% above their previous peaks in the mid-2000s, government policies aimed at improving affordability and promoting home ownership risk stoking prices, leaving first-time buyers further adrift, Layton said.
The result, in America as elsewhere, is a widening generational gap between baby boomers, who are statistically more likely to own a home, and millennials and Generation Z — who are watching their dreams of buying one go up in smoke.
Existing housing debt may be sowing the seeds of the next economic crunch if borrowing costs start to rise. Niraj Shah of Bloomberg Economics compiled a dashboard of countries most at threat of a real-estate bubble, and says risk gauges are “flashing warnings” at an intensity not seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
In the search for solutions, governments must try and avoid penalizing either renters or homeowners. It’s an unenviable task.
Sweden’s government collapsed in June after it proposed changes that would have abandoned traditional controls and allowed more rents to be set by the market.
In Berlin, an attempt to tame rent increases was overturned by a court. Campaigners have collected enough signatures to force a referendum on seizing property from large private landlords. The motion goes to a vote on Sept. 26. The city government on Friday announced it would buy nearly 15,000 apartments from two large corporate landlords for €2.46 billion ($2.9 billion) to expand supply.
Anthony Breach at the Center for Cities think tank has even made the case for a link between housing and Britain’s 2016 vote to quit the European Union. Housing inequality, he concluded, is “scrambling our politics.”
As these stories from around the world show, that’s a recipe for upheaval.
With annual inflation running around 50%, Argentines are no strangers to price increases. But for Buenos Aires residents like Lucia Cholakian, rent hikes are adding economic pressure, and with that political disaffection.
Like many during the pandemic, the 28-year-old writer and college professor moved with her partner from a downtown apartment to a residential neighborhood in search of more space. In the year since, her rent has more than tripled; together with bills it chews through about 40% of her income. That rules out saving for a home.
“We’re not going to be able to plan for the future like our parents did, with the dream of your own house,” she says. The upshot is “renting, buying and property in general” is becoming “much more present for our generation politically.”
Legislation passed by President Alberto Fernandez’s coalition aims to give greater rights to tenants like Cholakian. Under the new rules, contracts that were traditionally two years are now extended to three. And rather than landlords setting prices, the central bank created an index that determines how much rent goes up in the second and third year.
It’s proved hugely controversial, with evidence of some property owners raising prices excessively early on to counter the uncertainty of regulated increases later. Others are simply taking properties off the market. A government-decreed pandemic rent freeze exacerbated the squeeze.
Rental apartment listings in Buenos Aires city are down 12% this year compared to the average in 2019, and in the surrounding metro area they’re down 36%, according to real estate website ZonaProp.
The law “had good intentions but worsened the issue, as much for property owners as for tenants,” said Maria Eugenia Vidal, the former governor of Buenos Aires province and one of the main opposition figures in the city. She is contesting the November midterm elections on a ticket with economist Martin Tetaz with a pledge to repeal the legislation.
“Argentina is a country of uncertainty,” Tetaz said by phone, but with the housing rules it’s “even more uncertain now than before.”
Cholakian, who voted for Fernandez in 2019, acknowledges the rental reform is flawed, but also supports handing more power to tenants after an extended recession that wiped out incomes. If anything, she says greater regulation is needed to strike a balance between reassuring landlords and making rent affordable.
“If they don’t do something to control this in the city of Buenos Aires, only the rich will be left,” she says.
As the son of first-generation migrants from Romania, Alex Fagarasan should be living the Australian dream. Instead, he’s questioning his long-term prospects.
Fagarasan, a 28-year-old junior doctor at a major metropolitan hospital, would prefer to stay in Melbourne, close to his parents. But he’s being priced out of his city. He’s now facing the reality that he’ll have to move to a regional town to get a foothold in the property market. Then, all going well, in another eight years he’ll be a specialist and able to buy a house in Melbourne.
Even so, he knows he’s one of the lucky ones. His friends who aren’t doctors “have no chance” of ever owning a home. “My generation will be the first one in Australia that will be renting for the rest of their lives,” he says.
He currently rents a modern two-bedroom townhouse with two others in the inner suburb of Northcote — a study nook has been turned into a make-shift bedroom to keep down costs. About 30% of his salary is spent on rent; he calls it “exorbitant.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government announced a “comprehensive housing affordability plan” as part of the 2017-2018 budget, including 1 billion Australian dollars ($728 million) to boost supply. It hasn’t tamed prices.
The opposition Labour Party hasn’t fared much better. It proposed closing a lucrative tax loophole for residential investment at the last election in 2019, a policy that would likely have brought down home prices. But it sparked an exodus back to the ruling Liberals of voters who owned their home, and probably contributed to Labor’s election loss.
The political lessons have been learned: Fagarasan doesn’t see much help on housing coming from whoever wins next year’s federal election. After all, Labor already rules the state of Victoria whose capital is Melbourne.
“I feel like neither of the main parties represents the voice of the younger generation,” he says.
It’s a sentiment shared by Ben Matthews, a 33-year-old project manager at a university in Sydney. He’s moving back in with his parents after the landlord of the house he shared with three others ordered them out, an experience he says he found disappointing and stressful, especially during the pandemic.
Staying with his parents will at least help him save for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat. But even that’s a downgrade from his original plan of a two-bedroom house so he could rent the other room out. The increases, he says, are “just insane.”
“It might not be until something breaks that we’ll get the political impetus to make changes,” he says. -Jason Scott
Days after calling an election, Justin Trudeau announced plans for a two-year ban on foreigners buying houses. If it was meant as a dramatic intervention to blind-side his rivals, it failed: they broadly agree.
The prime minister thought he was going to fight the election — set for Monday — on the back of his handling of the pandemic, but instead housing costs are a dominant theme for all parties.
Trudeau’s Liberals are promising a review of “escalating” prices in markets including Vancouver and Toronto to clamp down on speculation; Conservative challenger Erin O’Toole pledges to build a million homes in three years to tackle the “housing crisis”; New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh wants a 20% tax on foreign buyers to combat a crisis he calls “out of hand.”
Facing a surprisingly tight race, Trudeau needs to attract young urban voters if he is to have any chance of regaining his majority. He chose Hamilton, outside Toronto, to launch his housing policy. Once considered an affordable place in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s faced rising pressure as people leave Canada’s biggest city in search of cheaper homes. The average single family home cost 932,700 Canadian dollars ($730,700) in June, a 30% increase from a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Hamilton and Burlington.
The City of Hamilton cites housing affordability among its priorities for the federal election, but that’s little comfort to Sarah Wardroper, a 32-year-old single mother of two young girls, who works part time and rents in the downtown east side. Hamilton, she says, represents “one of the worst housing crises in Canada.”
While she applauds promises to make it harder for foreigners to buy investment properties she’s skeptical of measures that might discourage homeowners from renting out their properties. That includes Trudeau’s bid to tax those who sell within 12 months of a house purchase. Neither is she convinced by plans for more affordable housing, seeing them as worthy but essentially a short-term fix when the real issue is “the economy is just so out of control the cost of living in general has skyrocketed.”
Wardroper says her traditionally lower-income community has become a luxury Toronto neighborhood.
“I don’t have the kind of job to buy a house, but I have the ambition and the drive to do that,” she says. “I want to build a future for my kids. I want them to be able to buy homes, but the way things are going right now, I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”
Back in 2011, a public uproar over the city-state’s surging home prices contributed to what was at the time the ruling party’s worst parliamentary election result in more than five decades in power. While the People’s Action Party retained the vast majority of the seats in parliament, it was a wake-up call — and there are signs the pressure is building again.
Private home prices have risen the most in two years, and in the first half of 2021 buyers including ultra-rich foreigners splurged 32.9 billion Singapore dollars ($24 billion), according to Singapore-based ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd. That’s double the amount recorded in Manhattan over the same period.
However, close to 80% of Singapore’s citizens live in public housing, which the government has long promoted as an asset they can sell to move up in life.
It’s a model that has attracted attention from countries including China, but one that is under pressure amid a frenzy in the resale market. Singapore’s government-built homes bear little resemblance to low-income urban concentrations elsewhere: In the first five months of the year, a record 87 public apartments were resold for at least SG$1 million. That’s stirring concerns about affordability even among the relatively affluent.
Junior banker Alex Ting, 25, is forgoing newly built public housing as it typically means a three-to-four-year wait. And under government rules for singles, Ting can only buy a public apartment when he turns 35 anyway.
His dream home is a resale flat near his parents. But even there a mismatch between supply and demand could push his dream out of reach.
While the government has imposed curbs on second-home owners and foreign buyers, younger people like Ting have grown resigned to the limits of what can be done.
Most Singaporeans aspire to own their own property, and the housing scarcity and surge in prices presents another hurdle to them realizing their goal, says Nydia Ngiow, Singapore-based senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a strategic policy advisory firm. If unaddressed, that challenge “may in turn build long-term resentment towards the ruling party,” she warns.
That’s an uncomfortable prospect for the PAP, even as the opposition faces barriers to winning parliamentary seats. The ruling party is already under scrutiny for a disrupted leadership succession plan, and housing costs may add to the pressure.
Younger voters may express their discontent by moving away from the PAP, according to Ting. “In Singapore, the only form of protest we can do is to vote for the opposition,” he says.
Claire Kerrane is open about the role of housing in her winning a seat in Ireland’s parliament, the Dail.
Kerrane, 29, was one of a slew of Sinn Fein lawmakers to enter the Dail last year after the party unexpectedly won the largest number of first preference votes at the expense of Ireland’s dominant political forces, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
While the two main parties went on to form a coalition government, the outcome was a political earthquake. Sinn Fein was formerly the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, yet it’s been winning followers more for its housing policy than its push for a united Ireland.
“Housing was definitely a key issue in the election and I think our policies and ambition for housing played a role in our election success,” says Kerrane, who represents the parliamentary district of Roscommon-Galway.
Ireland still bears the scars of a crash triggered by a housing bubble that burst during the financial crisis. A shortage of affordable homes means prices are again marching higher.
Sinn Fein has proposed building 100,000 social and affordable homes, the reintroduction of a pandemic ban on evictions and rent increases, and legislation to limit the rate banks can charge for mortgages.
Those policies have struck a chord. The most recent Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll, in June, showed Sinn Fein leading all other parties, with 21% of respondents citing house prices as the issue most likely to influence their vote in the next general election, the same proportion that cited the economy. Only health care trumped housing as a concern.
Other parties are taking note. On Sept. 2, the coalition launched a housing plan as the pillar of its agenda for this parliamentary term, committing over €4 billion ($4.7 billion) a year to increase supply, the highest-ever level of government investment in social and affordable housing.
Whether it’s enough to blunt Sinn Fein’s popularity remains to be seen. North of the border, meanwhile, Sinn Fein holds a consistent poll lead ahead of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly due by May, putting it on course to nominate the region’s First Minister for the first time since the legislature was established as part of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.
For all the many hurdles that remain to reunification, Sinn Fein is arguably closer than it has ever been to achieving its founding goal by championing efforts to widen access to housing.
As Kerrane says: “Few, if any households aren’t affected in some way by the housing crisis.”
Americans last year saw their first significant decline in household income in nearly a decade, government data showed, with economic pain from the Covid-19 pandemic prompting government aid that helped keep millions from falling into poverty.
An annual assessment of the nation’s financial well-being, released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, offered insight into how households fared during the pandemic’s first year. It arrives as Washington debates how much more to spend to bolster the economy during the worst public-health crisis in a century.
Median household income was about $67,500 in 2020, down 2.9% from the prior year, when it hit an inflation-adjusted historical high. It came as the U.S. last year saw millions lose their jobs and national unemployment soar from a 50-year low to a high of 14.8%.
The last time median household income fell significantly was 2011, in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession.
The Census Bureau’s top-line income figure includes unemployment benefits but doesn’t account for income and payroll taxes nor stimulus checks or other noncash benefits like federal food programs. If those had been counted, the median household income would have risen 4% to $62,773.
As was the case with the income measure, the report offered conflicting takes on poverty trends because of differing definitions and approaches to the topic.
The bureau said the traditional poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4%, an increase of 1 percentage point from 2019 and the first increase after five consecutive years of declines. That translated to 37.2 million people in poverty, an increase of 3.3 million from 2019. For a four-person household, the threshold for meeting the definition of poverty was about $26,000 in 2020.
The official poverty measure doesn’t reflect how much a household pays in taxes, and it also omits noncash government aid like tax credits, housing subsidies and free school lunches. A broader poverty measure that accounts for such expenses and income actually fell last year to 9.1%, down 2.6 percentage points from 2019.
The decrease, coinciding with an increase in the official poverty rate, highlighted the role of the government safety net, which was expanded during the pandemic. The two poverty yardsticks have tracked closely for a decade, but last year was the first time that the supplemental measure dropped below the official measure.
Without the first two rounds of stimulus checks issued last year, the broader poverty measure would have risen by almost a percentage point instead of dropping, the bureau said.
Specifically, stimulus checks moved 11.7 million people above the poverty threshold if their effect was calculated alone. In the same manner, expanded unemployment programs did so for 5.5 million people. Refundable tax credits, such as the earned-income tax credit, did so for 5.3 million people. The Social Security program, however, remained the largest safety net program, lifting 26.5 million people above the poverty line.
“The increase in poverty would have been even larger if it were not for the ample fiscal support provided over the past year,” said Shannon Seery, an economist at Wells Fargo & Co.
After continued direct federal payments made to households in 2021 and enhanced unemployment benefits that expired in early September, Ms. Seery said, an improving unemployment picture should help households.
“With a robust demand for labor, exhibited by the record 10.9 million job openings in July, and average hourly earnings rising across industries, the current environment should help lure workers back to the job site,” she said.
The bureau also said Tuesday the proportion of Americans without health insurance for all of 2020 was 8.6%, essentially unchanged from 2018. About 28 million Americans lacked health insurance, according to the survey.
Median earnings in 2020 of those who worked full time, year-round increased 6.9% from 2019. The 2020 female-to-male earnings ratio was 83%, essentially unchanged from the previous year.
The distribution of incomes changed little. The top fifth of households—with incomes above $141,100—collected 52.2% of household income, while the top 5% alone—with incomes above $273,700—collected 23%. The bureau reported that the income shares collected by the lowest groups dropped slightly. The lowest fifth of households—making less than $27,000—collected 3%, down from 3.1% in 2019. The second fifth—with incomes from $27,000 to $52,000—collected 8.1%, down from 8.3% in 2019.
In 2020, median household incomes decreased 3.2% in the Midwest and 2.3% in the South and West, the bureau said. The change in the Northeast between 2019 and 2020 wasn’t statistically significant.
Median incomes were highest in the Northeast ($75,211) and the West ($74,951), followed by the Midwest ($66,968) and the South ($61,243). Households with the lowest levels of educational attainment logged the greatest declines in their incomes. For those headed by someone without a high school diploma, incomes dropped 5.7%, while those headed by someone with some college education or a bachelor’s degree or higher recorded a 2.8% decline.
Rocky Smith Jr., a 41-year-old union worker who cuts metal parts down to size after they exit a furnace, said things are looking up for his family of four in Muskegon, Mich. After being laid off in April 2020, he said, he wasn’t hired back until July 2021.
Mr. Smith said he is now making more than $20 an hour at his full-time job. His wife, he said, resumed working during his unemployment and the family skipped meals out and other luxuries.
“We rolled with the punches,” said Mr. Smith, a former boxer. “Life hit us, but we made it work.”
There’s nothing more beautiful to a professional investor than a negative correlation between stocks and bonds. When stocks have a bad month, bonds have a good month, and vice versa. Since their zigs and zags offset each other, the value of the combined portfolio is less volatile. The customers are pleased. And that’s how it’s been for most of the last two decades.
But for almost a year now, Bloomberg market reporters have been detecting anxiety from the pros that the era of negative correlation may be over or ending, replaced by an era of positive correlation in which stock and bond prices move together, amplifying volatility instead of dampening it. “Bonds Have Never Been So Useless as a Hedge to Stocks Since 1999,” read the headline on one article this May.
Yet hope springs eternal. The headline on a July 7 article was, “Bonds Are Hinting They’ll Hedge Stocks Again as Growth Bets Ease.”
In the big picture and over long periods, it’s obvious and necessary that stock and bond returns are positively correlated. After all, they’re competing investments. Each generates a stream of income: dividends for (most) stocks, coupon payments for bonds. If stocks get very expensive, investors will shift money into bonds as a cheaper alternative until that rebalancing makes bonds more or less equally expensive. Likewise, when one of the two asset classes gets cheap it will tend to drag down the other.
When the pros talk about negative correlation they’re referring to shorter periods—say, a month or two–over which stocks and bonds can indeed move in different directions. Lately two giant money managers have produced explanations for why stocks and bonds move apart or together. They’re worth understanding even if your assets under management are in the thousands rather than billions or trillions.
Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, based in Westport, Conn., says that how stocks and bonds play with each other has to do with economic conditions and policy. “There will naturally be times when they’re negatively correlated and naturally be times when they’re positively correlated, and those come from the underlying environment itself,” senior portfolio strategist, Jeff Gardner says in an edited transcript of a recent in-house interview.
According to Gardner, inflation was the most important factor in the markets for decades—both when it rose in the 1960s and 1970s and when it fell in the 1980s and 1990s. Inflation affects stocks and bonds similarly, although it’s worse for bonds with their fixed payments than for stocks. That’s why correlation was positive during that long period.
For the past 20 years or so, inflation has been so low and steady that it’s been a non-factor in the markets. So investors have paid more attention to economic growth prospects. Strong growth is great for stocks but doesn’t do anything for bonds. That, says Gardner, is the main reason that stocks and bonds have moved in different directions.
PGIM Inc., the main asset management business of insurer Prudential Financial Inc., has $1.5 trillion under management. In a report issued in May, it puts numbers on the disappointment the pros feel when stocks and bonds start to move in sync. Let’s say a portfolio is 60% stocks and 40% bonds and has a stock-bond correlation of -0.3, which is about average for the last 20 years. Volatility is around 7%.
Now let’s say the correlation goes to zero—not positive yet, but not negative anymore, either. To keep volatility from rising, the portfolio manager would have to reduce the allocation to stocks to around 52%, which would lower the portfolio’s returns. If the stock-bond correlation reached a positive 0.3, then keeping volatility from rising would require reducing the stock allocation to only 40%, hitting returns even harder.
PGIM’s list of factors that affect correlations is longer than Bridgewater’s but consistent with it. The report by vice president Junying Shen and managing director Noah Weisberger says correlations between stocks and bonds tend to be negative when there’s sustainable fiscal policy, independent and rules-based monetary policy, and shifts up or down in the demand side of the economy (consumption).
The correlation is likely to be positive, they say, when there’s unsustainable fiscal policy, discretionary monetary policy, monetary-fiscal policy coordination, and shifts in the supply side of the economy (output). One last thought: It’s a good idea to spread your money between stocks and bonds even if they don’t hedge each other.
The capital asset pricing model developed by William Sharpe in the 1960s says everyone should have the same portfolio, consisting of every asset available, and adjust their risk by how much they borrow. True, not everyone agrees. John Rekenthaler, a vice president for research at Morningstar Inc., wrote a fun article in 2017 about the different strategies of Sharpe and fellow Nobel laureate Harry Markowitz.
A century ago, money from Andrew Carnegie created Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association to pay pensions to schoolteachers, professors and other people who work at nonprofit organizations. In the early days, these pensions were backed by bond portfolios and paid fixed monthly sums. Then, in 1952, TIAA invented the variable annuity.
Payouts from this novel product were tied to the return on a collection of stocks called the College Retirement Equities Fund. Don’t put all your money in this risky thing, a retiring prof would be told, but put in some in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. Your payouts from Cref will be unpredictable but still very likely, over time, to greatly outpace payouts from a fixed annuity. That’s because stocks, over time, outpace bonds.
With the variable annuity, TIAA married the high returns on equities with the classic annuity benefit of longevity pooling. Longevity pooling means that people who die young collect less over their lifetimes than their colleagues who live long. Pooling is a bet worth making because it allows you do live well off a pot of savings without taking a risk that you will exhaust those savings. Pooling is how all monthly pensions work. It’s how Social Security works.
Cref was a hit. It now has $279 billion under management.
Is it a good buy? It looks that way to me. The graph displays the monthly payouts for a 67-year-old female who invested $100,000 25 years ago in the main stock account, which is akin to a global index fund with a 30% foreign allocation. She rode a roller-coaster, with payments cut in half during the crash of 2007-2009, but if she’s still breathing at 92 she’s now getting $2,146 a month, better than triple her $610 starting pension.
For the index fund, the combined fee (for salesmen, annuity administrators and portfolio managers) comes to 0.24% a year. In the world of annuities that counts as a bargain. Variable annuities sold by stockbrokers can cost eight times as much.
It helps that TIAA is a nonprofit and its annuity pools are run on a mutual basis—meaning, pensioners share in the gains and losses that arise from unexpected mortality. Thus, if too few emeritus professors take up skydiving, there will be more than the expected number of mouths to feed and the growth in payouts will be less than hoped for. Conversely, a pandemic boosts payouts.
Now, a mutual form of organization is no guarantee of either efficiency or wisdom, but in this context it means that the insurance company does not have to pad its prices in order to cover the risk that retirees will live too long.
Nor does the nonprofit status mean an advisor won’t be tempted to steer a pensioner into products considerably more costly than an index fund (read this New York Times story). But if you stick to the cheap portfolio options you’ve got a good deal. Proviso: You should be in excellent health if you’re buying any kind of annuity.
Alas, not everyone can get in the door at Cref. You can acquire a TIAA annuity only if you or a fairly close relative works or worked in the nonprofit world—such as for a government agency, hospital, school or college.
What variable annuity is there for retirees in the corporate sector? Nothing that I would recommend. The insurance industry has responded to TIAA’s invention with a slew of convoluted and costly products that make price comparisons next to impossible.
You will probably see some kind of “mortality” charge in the prospectus (that padding I was talking about); you will probably not be able to discern what kind of worse damage is built into the formula that connects your payout to the return on the stock market; your salesman will probably be buying a new sports car right after you sign.