End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian

End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian
End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian
Petrol prices lifted for the second consecutive week and motorists certainly have the right to question why. Global oil prices are continuing to fall, the Aussie dollar has held up well and yet domestic pump prices have lifted in the past fortnight. Even in Aussie dollar terms the Singapore unleaded price has now fallen for seven of the past eight weeks having lost a cumulative total of over AUD$13, and is now holding at a 17-week low – a result that should keep domestic pump prices under downward pressure.

The Reserve Bank made mention of the lift in retail petrol margins in the Statement of Monetary Policy last week. CommSec analysis of the raw margin between the retail price and terminal gate price has risen to 12.4 cents in the past fortnight, well above the 5-year average of 9.3 cents. To some degree when oil prices are falling rapidly margins tend to expand as petrol retailers sell higher priced fuel first in petrol station bunkers before selling the cheaper fuel. The situation will bear further scrutiny in coming weeks.
The US summer driving season is nearing an end and the lift in gasoline stockpiles is putting downward pressure on global oil prices. In addition the Iran nuclear deal with the West could lead to a lift in sanctions on the former’s oil exports – adding further to global supply and depressing prices. Interestingly had the pressure on global oil prices been earlier in the year motorists could have been paying a $1 a litre for fuel given the stronger Australian dollar. 
End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian
End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian

Figures from MotorMouth show that petrol prices have been falling for just over a week in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, although prices in Sydney and Adelaide have been falling a lot sharper than in Melbourne. Meanwhile prices hit the high point (peak) on August 7 in Brisbane and are only just starting to ease. Only Perth operates on a uniform weekly cycle. The bottom line is that prices will continue to slide over the coming week and motorists would be better off waiting a few more days before filling up the family vehicle.

The latest lending statistics show a mild rebound in June, largely driven by the strength in housing finance and in that context it is investor housing in particular that has driven the strength. Overall lending is only just shy of the seven-year highs reached two months ago. However the recent announcements and media commentary on the tighter bank lending standards is likely to start weighing on the sector. While housing activity will continue to be the backbone of the economy over the coming year, it is starting to show signs of cooling – especially when it comes to irrational exuberance.

The main disappointment in the latest lending finance results would be commercial loans. If there is an anticipated pullback in home lending policymakers would be hoping that activity amongst the business sector lifts from here. Commercial loans are up almost 4 per cent on a year ago. Business conditions are healthy, however businesses are still rather tentative about borrowing. The key driver of future lending will be an ongoing improvement in labour market conditions, rise in business hiring intentions and lift in consumer confidence.

  • What do the figures show?
  • Petrol price:

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of petrol rose by 0.8 cents per litre to 138.5 cents per litre in the week to August 9. The metropolitan petrol price rose by 1.2 cents to 137.7 cents per litre and the regional price was unchanged at 140.1 cents per litre.

The national average Australian price of diesel petrol fell by 0.5 cents to 133.5 cents per litre in the week to August 9. Last week the metropolitan price fell by 0.6 cents to 131.3 c/l, while the regional average price fell by 0.5 cents to 135.3 c/l.

Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (down 2.1 cents to 136.7 c/l), Melbourne (up 9.0 cents to 142.3 c/l), Brisbane (down 0.6 cents to 135.3 c/l),

Adelaide (down 4.7 cents to 133.8 c/l), Perth (down 1.4 cents to 136.2 c/l), Darwin (down by 0.2 cents to 134.3 c/l), Canberra (down 2.7 cents to 135.9 c/l) and Hobart (down by 0.1 cents to 142.7 c/l).

Today, the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at a near 3-month low of 123.8 cents a litre, down 1 cent a litre on a week ago but still up from the 6-year low of 100.4 cents per litre set on January 20.

Last week the key Singapore gasoline price fell by US85c or 1.2 per cent to US$71.95 a barrel – a 17-week low. Singapore gasoline previously hit a near 6-year low (lowest since March 2009) of US$52.20 a barrel on January 13. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price fell by $2.14 a barrel or 2.2 per cent last week to $97.67 a barrel or 61.42 cents a litre.

Lending finance

Total new lending commitments (housing, personal, commercial and lease finance) rose by 0.8 per cent in June to $74.7 billion after a 4.3 per cent fall in May. New loans are up 3.6 per cent over the year.

Housing finance: The seasonally adjusted measure of construction and new purchases rose by 5.5 per cent in June while alterations & additions rose by 9.3 per cent. Home loans are up 9.7 per cent on a year. 

End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian
End of irrational housing price exuberance? Savanth Sebastian

Commercial finance: The seasonally adjusted series for the value of total commercial finance commitments fell by 1 per cent in June. Revolving credit commitments fell by 1.5 per cent while fixed lending
commitments fell by 0.8 per cent. Business loans are up 3.9 per cent over the year.
Personal finance: The seasonally adjusted series for the value of total personal finance commitments rose by 1 per cent in June after falling by 2 per cent in May. Revolving credit commitments fell by 0.9 per cent and fixed lending commitments rose by 2.3 per cent. Personal loans are down 9.9 per cent over the year. Within personal fixed finance commitments, finance for used cars was up 6.4 per cent on a year earlier while loans for new cars were up by 12.8 per cent.

Lease finance: Lending rose by 1.6 per cent in June after rising by 0.8 per cent in May. Lease finance fell by 5.0 per cent over the year.

  • What is the importance of the economic data?
Lending Finance is released monthly by the Bureau of Statistics and contains figures on new housing, personal, commercial and lease finance commitments. The importance of the data lies in what it reveals about the appropriateness of interest rate settings, confidence and spending levels in the economy.

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.

  • What are the implications for interest rates and investors?
While the vagaries of the discounting cycle continues to be the key driver of such vast shifts in pump prices across the nation, motorists can still benefit. The discounting cycle provides the best opportunity to purchase fuel at or below the cost (terminal gate) price – and in turn save a few extra dollars. Between the peak and the trough in the cycle motorists could save themselves as much as 20 cents a litre or around $10-$15 to fill up a tank with fuel. In major capital cities the best time to fill up the family vehicle may be later in the week.

CommSec expects interest rates to remain on hold over the rest of 2015. 
Savanth Sebastian is an economist for CommSec. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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