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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Some Gloom but NOT all Doom: Australia's Outlook

Home buyers have been squeezed by rising property prices and a string of interest rate hikes, and this is having a knock-on effect to tenants too.

So could the property bubble burst? That is now a real possibility. The 0.25 per cent rate rise of this week will push more Australian families into housing stress, and whilst many will cope many will not. This will force many to sell up, many for whatever they can get.

That trend is already evident in the outer suburbs of many Australian cities, particularly Sydney. So property prices, in some suburbs, might well fall further in the months ahead.

Is it all gloomy though? Another rate rise could attract a flood of hot money into this country.
Australia’s interest rates are already substantially higher than those in America, Japan and many other countries.

So foreign investors are likely to find relatively safe, interest only, investments very attractive indeed. This will, once again, strengthen the $A, which will help to ease inflationary pressures in Australia. But this will be relatively slow.
None of this, though, will help sustain property prices, particularly in the outer suburbs.

One factor might, however, and that is a strong migration program.

Western Australia and Queensland are still keen to attract more migrants. The two big resource States still need many more people to fill the gaps in their workforces. Those shortfalls are restricting development, in those places. But neither New South Wales or Victoria are likely to benefit much from that.

High house prices are already forcing people out of Sydney, and the current slowdown, in the manufacturing sector is likely to limit job opportunities in Victoria and South Australia.

So while the outlook is gloomy for some, it's not all doom.

Simon Turner

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