Everyone loves a party and Australia threw one of the biggest parties in history.

Australia’s wholesale liqueur central distributor (widely known as the “RBA”) should have taken away the punch long ago, but as in the US (and everywhere else), the central distributor as well as government officials and street vendors, all love a party, and what a long street party it was!

After years of partying, party goers got more than a bit tipsy, especially after government officials spiked the punch hoping to keep the street party going perpetually. Out of fear of being blamed for a massive hangover, the central distributor hiked the price of punch repeatedly hoping for a quiet end to the party.

However, the central distributor’s rate hike message was ignored for over a year, primarily because the punch distributor kept insisting “there is no bubble in partying”. New party goers heard the message and came rushing in chanting the slogan “better party before it’s too late”.

Various media outlets and party sponsors mocked one “keen” non-party goer who was too busy mountain climbing to party. Everyone else was cheering the party that had “too many fundamentals to ever end”

Meanwhile, the group of bar owners and bartenders known as the “Big Four” were forced to pass along the central distributor’s price hikes. Nonetheless, the masses kept drinking and partying. It was quite the spike government officials threw into the punch!

In an act of desperation, the “Big Four” bar owners finally raised prices even more than the wholesale liqueur distributor. They did this after becoming worried about the consequences of drunks passing out on the floor, in the street, and in the outback, unable to pay their “bar tabs”.

Note that bar tab paying is the only real concern of the bar owners, not the mess in the streets or the outback.

Unfortunately, the actions of the distributor and the bar owners came far too late for a quiet end to the party. After singing the wildly popular hit tune “It’s Different Here” at the top of their lungs more times than there are kangaroos in the outback, the party goers finally passed out in the streets and the outback in drunken stupor.

“It’s Different Here” was written by the vocal group R.E. Agents.

Historians will note that exhaustion from drinking, singing, and spending money they did not have ultimately did the party goers in, not excessive price hikes as currently reported in the media and by the government sponsors of the street party, all hoping to place the blame elsewhere.

In the wake of a massive hangover, a group of party goers aptly named the Green Party, as well as various government officials and local businesses are hoping to revive the street party, as is the vocal rock band R.E. Agents, hoping to capitalize on another party tune.

Unfortunately, the “Pool of Greater Partyers” has simply dried up. Everyone is passed out on the floor, deep in debt, voices shot, and in general too pooped and too broke to party.

Australia is in effect “partied out”.

A Recap of Australia’s Now Imploding Housing Bubble

It certainly took longer than I expected but signs suggest the Australia housing boom is finally over. The bubble will take years to unwind.

Housing busts always begin with a surge in inventory and a dearth of buyers. Then comes falling prices, denial, and government efforts to re-blow the bubble. Let’s start with a look at inventory.

SmartCompany reports Property market hit by flood of new listings

Residential property listings increased in all cities during October with the market now flooded with more properties than during 2008, one expert has warned.

SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher says the increase in listings is clear evidence the market is softening, and says the sheer amount of properties means buyers can now take their pick of the litter.

“It means the housing market is slowing down and we are expecting more listings to come into the market in November, in Brisbane there’s been a 50% increase in stock levels year on year, and that’s a huge increase.”

“Melbourne is also a fairly rapid increase, and that recorded more stock in the market than in 2008. Sydney doesn’t look too bad, but not as bad Brisbane. The market is weakening in terms of prices, and this will continue as more listings come onto the market.”

Christopher also warns that with price growth remaining flat over the next 12 months, buyers will be able to snap up some bargains. He warns sellers to remain vigilant and watch the market for any further movements.

Bargains?!

Christopher has the current direction correct but he is is sadly mistaken about bargains. It will take many years before prices get back to normal and far longer for there to be any bargains.

Luxury Home Auctions Hit By Prices

Bloomberg reports Sydney Opera House Luxury-Home Auction Hit by Rates

A luxury home auction at the Sydney Opera House yesterday managed to sell only two of the 11 Australian homes on offer as the most aggressive round of interest rate increases by a Group of 20 member saps demand.

The Reserve Bank of Australia raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.75 percent on Nov. 2 and said it welcomed a cooling of house prices, even as home- price growth slowed for a third straight quarter from July to September. Auction clearance rates averaged 54.7 percent across Australia’s eight capital cities during the Nov. 5 weekend, compared with an average of 63.8 percent the weekend of May 29, according to data from real estate research group RP Data.

Last week, “the Reserve Bank seemed to give the indication that they were keen to keep the lid on prices, and that’s not what buyers want to hear,” Brian White, chairman of the Ray White Group, which organized the event, said in an interview after the auction. “That’s a very bearish sentiment.”

Some properties — including a six-bedroom rural lakefront home with a tennis court, billiards room, pool and sauna in Tuncurry, about 300 kilometers north of Sydney, and a three- level home with under-floor heating and a 12-person lift in Blakehurst, a south Sydney suburb — failed to receive any bids.

Westpac, NAB complete rate rise quartet

Bloomberg reports Westpac, NAB complete rate rise quartet

Westpac has joined the other three major banks in raising mortgage rates more than the Reserve Bank with a 35-basis-point increase.

The move came just over an hour after National Australia Bank raised its standard variable mortgage rate by 43 basis points.

While Westpac’s increase is the smallest of the big four, it still has the highest standard variable mortgage rate.

The standard variable mortgage rates for the big four banks are:

* NAB – 7.67 per cent
* ANZ – 7.80 per cent
* Commonwealth – 7.81 per cent
* Westpac – 7.86 per cent

All the rate rises are above the Reserve Bank’s 25-basis-point official hike last week, but Westpac’s latest move is below ANZ’s 39-basis-point increase and CBA’s 45-basis-point rise.

Australia Building Industry Flounders

The CourrierMail reports Housing loan interest rate rises dash any hope of a housing recovery in Queensland.

A BOUNCE-BACK in the Queensland housing industry is unlikely any time soon with the latest figures showing another drop in housing finance figures.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released this week show a 0.5 per cent fall in September.

This came on the back of a 1.2 per cent fall in August and was a “grim predictor” for the already struggling Queensland building industry, according to Master Builders director of housing policy Paul Bidwell.

Mr Bidwell said the fall could largely be attributed to the rapid hikes in interest rates earlier this year.

He said finance approvals were the lead indicator of building activity and the current figures showed a bounce-back for the industry was nowhere in sight.

The dim prospects for the home building industry comes as the number of existing properties flooding on to the market continues to rise.

Broker group Mortgage Choice reports a doubling in borrower requests to talk with a mortgage broker, many from potential refinancers.

The main motivation to refinance was to switch to a “cheaper loan”

Bouncebacks? Cheaper Loans?

Talk of bouncebacks 3 months into a housing implosion 3 years long overdue is complete silliness. Trapped buyers are going to be astounded at how fast prices drop one the implosion picks up steam.

That buyers are flooding the banks already hoping to refinance is a sign that many are in serious trouble. Nonetheless, the story gets even sillier.

Green Party Wants Laws to Limit Rate Hikes

Most mortgages in Australia are adjustable. A series a rate hikes has the green party howling. Bloomberg reports Australia’s Greens Plan Laws to Control Bank Rates

Westpac Banking Corp. and its closest competitors in Australia would face restraints on increasing mortgage interest rates under legislation planned by the Greens Party.

The Greens aim to put a 24-month freeze on the so-called “Big Four” domestic banks, banning them from raising their interest charges by more than the Reserve Bank of Australia’s increases, according to an e-mailed statement from the party today. The legislation, to be introduced to the lower house tomorrow, also seeks to scrap some small fees and ensure banks pass on decreases to official central bank rates, it said.

Westpac and National Australia Bank Ltd. on Nov. 12 announced increases to their standard variable home-loan rates, following moves by Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. After reporting higher profits, all four raised charges by more than the Nov. 2 quarter-percentage point move by the Reserve Bank, triggering a backlash by homeowners and verbal attacks from the government and opposition.

The rate increases “confirmed the culture of arrogance and contempt for the community we are seeing among the big banks,” Treasurer Wayne Swan said in an e-mailed statement today.

Mortgage rates are a topic of public debate in Australia, where more than 90 percent of homeowners have variable-rate home loans. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Nov. 12 the government was working on changes to the banking industry that would allow consumers to more easily leave their bank and find a better deal with smaller lenders.

The Australian government will “soon” announce “a carefully considered, effective plan to promote more competition and give people a fair go,” Swan said.

“There is absolutely no justification” for the scale of the rate increases, Gillard said Nov. 12. “People who bank with those banks will judge them very harshly for it.”

Justification? Of Course There’s Justification

Banks are obviously scared s*less about the impending implosion. That is the justification.

Of course everyone involved should have thought about this a year ago, two years ago, and three years ago. There was ample warning from the US.

Now The Consequences

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Business conditions drop as retail flounders

Business conditions dropped to their lowest level in more than a year in October, suggesting Australia’s economic activity is faltering.

The National Australia Bank business conditions index dropped to 2 in October from 7 in September, well below the long-term average of 6. It was the lowest monthly level since July 2009, when business activity was still recovering from the impact of the global financial crisis.

“The nascent recovery evident in the September survey has been put on hold for the moment,” said NAB chief economist Alan Oster. The profitability index dropped to -4 from 6, going into negative territory for the first time in more than two years as prices weakened.

The trading index dropped from 13 to 4 over the same period, NAB said, while retail conditions trended down for the first time since September 1997.

Nascent Recovery Over

The nascent recovery is over. The implosion has begun. But some still have not gotten the message.

Australia Property Bull Offers Jeremy Grantham $100m Housing bet

The Australian reports Joye offers US guru $100m housing bet

HRISTOPHER Joye, an Australian property market bull, yesterday offered US guru Jeremy Grantham a $100 million bet on house prices.

.Mr Joye, managing director of property research group Rismark International, challenged his equally vocal sparring partner, GMO Capital founder and chief investment strategist Mr Grantham, to put his “money where your mouth is” on the issue of whether Australia really is in a property bubble.

Mr Grantham’s downbeat views on Australia’s home prices were “sensationalist and spurious”, Mr Joye said.

He challenged Mr Grantham to bet the $100m over a three-year term, basing the outcome of the bet on movements in the RP Data-Rismark Australian Capital Cities Dwelling Price Index.

For every 1 per cent rise in the index, Mr Grantham would pay $1m, Mr Joye said. But for every 1 per cent decline in the index, Mr Grantham would receive $1m.

The trade would be settled at the end of three years with monthly margining to manage credit risk.

I hope Grantham takes the bet. Not that Grantham needs the money, but clearly Joye has too much and is offering to give $100 million of it away.

Punch-Free Party Addendum:

Steve Keen just pinged me with this real-time comment “Loved the outback imagery mate! I did laugh out loud a couple of times. And actually this keen hiker had his own punch-free party on the walk to Kosciuszko. Much more fun than the property bulls shindig.”

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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