Bitcoin: A Solution to Excess Wealth?
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,655,505 (-0.06%)       Melbourne $994,898 (+0.02%)       Brisbane $991,841 (+1.33%)       Adelaide $889,373 (+1.26%)       Perth $861,566 (+0.49%)       Hobart $729,893 (-1.65%)       Darwin $669,344 (+0.35%)       Canberra $999,769 (+1.27%)       National $1,055,910 (+0.34%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $749,436 (-0.10%)       Melbourne $494,327 (+0.46%)       Brisbane $554,094 (+2.77%)       Adelaide $439,361 (-1.14%)       Perth $456,655 (-0.27%)       Hobart $524,871 (-0.43%)       Darwin $349,455 (+1.52%)       Canberra $494,554 (-1.96%)       National $530,871 (+0.07%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,048 (-72)       Melbourne 14,823 (-272)       Brisbane 7,999 (+9)       Adelaide 2,372 (-66)       Perth 6,238 (-89)       Hobart 1,265 (-29)       Darwin 232 (-6)       Canberra 1,020 (0)       National 43,997 (-525)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,719 (-61)       Melbourne 8,033 (-189)       Brisbane 1,615 (-4)       Adelaide 391 (-5)       Perth 1,570 (-29)       Hobart 203 (-10)       Darwin 394 (-6)       Canberra 1,010 (+7)       National 21,935 (-297)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $820 ($0)       Melbourne $600 (-$10)       Brisbane $640 ($0)       Adelaide $610 ($0)       Perth $670 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 ($0)       Canberra $680 ($0)       National $668 (-$1)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 (-$25)       Melbourne $550 ($0)       Brisbane $630 ($0)       Adelaide $500 ($0)       Perth $640 (+$13)       Hobart $450 ($0)       Darwin $513 (+$13)       Canberra $570 ($0)       National $589 (-$2)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,497 (+71)       Melbourne 5,818 (+35)       Brisbane 4,141 (+99)       Adelaide 1,399 (0)       Perth 2,377 (+32)       Hobart 400 (+17)       Darwin 111 (+17)       Canberra 604 (+9)       National 20,347 (+280)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 9,083 (+248)       Melbourne 4,637 (+100)       Brisbane 2,182 (-27)       Adelaide 393 (+2)       Perth 731 (-10)       Hobart 130 (-7)       Darwin 144 (-8)       Canberra 684 (+72)       National 17,984 (+370)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.58% (↑)        Melbourne 3.14% (↓)       Brisbane 3.36% (↓)       Adelaide 3.57% (↓)       Perth 4.04% (↓)     Hobart 3.92% (↑)        Darwin 5.44% (↓)       Canberra 3.54% (↓)       National 3.29% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.20% (↓)       Melbourne 5.79% (↓)       Brisbane 5.91% (↓)     Adelaide 5.92% (↑)      Perth 7.29% (↑)      Hobart 4.46% (↑)      Darwin 7.63% (↑)      Canberra 5.99% (↑)        National 5.77% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.8% (↑)      Melbourne 0.7% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 0.9% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.0% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.1% (↑)      Brisbane 1.0% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 0.5% (↑)      Hobart 1.4% (↑)      Darwin 1.7% (↑)      Canberra 1.4% (↑)      National 1.1% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 30.3 (↑)      Melbourne 31.5 (↑)      Brisbane 31.7 (↑)        Adelaide 25.7 (↓)     Perth 35.4 (↑)      Hobart 33.7 (↑)        Darwin 36.2 (↓)     Canberra 32.0 (↑)        National 32.1 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND       Sydney 31.3 (↑)      Melbourne 31.9 (↑)      Brisbane 32.1 (↑)        Adelaide 24.8 (↓)       Perth 38.7 (↓)     Hobart 37.6 (↑)        Darwin 46.5 (↓)     Canberra 39.2 (↑)        National 35.3 (↓)           
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Bitcoin: A Solution to Excess Wealth?

Canada is planting 30 million trees this season. The purpose is to build a powerful carbon sink.

By Marc Chandler
Tue, Jun 29, 2021 2:16pmGrey Clock 3 min

Carbon is not the only thing that modernity produces in excess. There is a surfeit of capital. Absorbing it has become a major challenge and threatens financial stability. There are more than $13 trillion of negative-yielding bonds in the world. Despite claims of exorbitant privilege, the U.S. government pays about 1.5% interest to borrow for a decade, historically low and below the Federal Reserve’s inflation target. Japan and Germany, the next largest market economies, can borrow at considerably lower rates. Germany charges investors nearly 20 basis points, or 0.2%, annually for the privilege of lending to it. It is not coincidental that cryptocurrencies were born in an age in which savings are abundant.

Capital is subject to the same law of supply and demand as other sectors of society. Capital is cheap because it is abundant. Large companies have more money than they know what to do with, so they return it to shareholders in stock buybacks and dividends. The drive to improve returns fuels mergers and acquisitions.

Equity valuations are stretched. House prices in many countries are rising quickly. Credit spreads, which measure how much one is paid for a unit of risk, are historically tight.

Excess capacity is another expression of surplus savings, that is, overinvestment. The U.S. economy is roughly the size it was on the eve of the pandemic. Yet around 7.5 million fewer people are working. Despite a booming economy, the U.S. is using a little more than three-quarters of its industrial capacity. Even at the end of 2019, it was just above 76%.

Capital is abundant because market-based economies are huge wealth creators. By applying science to production and finance, capitalism has been incredibly successful. And it turns out that to succeed, capitalism does not need to permit slavery, employ children, or deny women the right to vote. It can provide unemployment insurance, social security, and head-start services without being dictated to or sacrificing personal liberty. Its plasticity confounds critics. It can be reformed.

However, capitalism’s biggest weakness grows out of its most powerful strength, one that cannot be reformed away. It produces wealth on levels heretofore inconceivable. We live in an epoch that King Midas would recognize. We are choking on our wealth. Even if one does not recognize the disease (the idea of surplus capital is still controversial in some circles), the symptoms are undeniable. The return to capital is low, whether it is interest rates or profit margins. Redundant investment (excess capacity) is another symptom. Efforts to rationalize industries are part of the M&A wave. Corporations have become net providers of capital, no longer net borrowers. Speculation is extensive, and the gamification of “investing” began long before Robinhood and the legalization of sports betting in the U.S.

If we will not address the underlying distributional issues and the disparity of income, wealth, and power, then we need to channel the surplus savings away from those expressions that help fuel economic and political instability. What is needed is a vehicle that does to savings what trees do to carbon. Voilà! Enter crypto.

Some diehards continue to insist that crypto is money. El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele recently pushed through plans to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender. More than two-thirds of the nation’s population lacks bank accounts or credit cards. Bitcoin rose about 270% from mid-December to mid-April and has since been halved. Volatility makes this a dangerous experiment. Let’s see if it lasts longer than Tesla’s offer to sell cars for Bitcoin.

Perhaps the function of crypto is to redirect savings from lifting equities to even more stretched values, or pushing nominal and real rates lower, or creatively destroying goodwill in acquisitions. Some have said that blockchain was a solution looking for a problem. The problem that crypto may attempt to address is the need for a new asset to absorb the wealth in a nonthreatening, ideologically safe way.

Crypto was born during a period of great concentrations of wealth, and it cannot help but reflect that origin. Despite the talk of decentralized finance, ownership of crypto, let alone trading, appears highly concentrated. One recent study found that more than 72% of Bitcoins (now about $33,000 each) are owned by those with 100 or more Bitcoins, along with miners and brokers. Nearly 32% are owned by those with 1,000 or more Bitcoins. A recent survey by Gemini, a crypto exchange, found that the “average” crypto trader was a 38-year-old male whose household made about $111,000, roughly 60% more than the median family income in the US.

The volatility and environmental issues of some models (proof-of-work) suggest that even as a centralized store of value, crypto’s role as a savings trap may be limited. It will not solve the challenge of capitalism’s unparalleled ability to produce wealth. The current steep decline in the face of strong price pressures weakens arguments of a hedge against inflation and as store of value. Ultimately, crypto is another expression of the surfeit of capital.

Marc Chandler is chief market strategist, Bannockburn Global Forex.

Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 28, 2021.



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The sticky economic factor making an interest rate drop unlikely this year

It’s a key indicator in the RBA board’s decision making process, but it is proving difficult to move in the right direction

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The consumer price index (CPI) rose in April to an annual rate of 3.6 percent, which was 0.1 percent higher than in March, raising doubts about an interest rate cut this year as inflation starts looking stickier than expected. This is the second consecutive month of small rises, potentially indicating that Australia is experiencing the same stalled progress in bringing inflation down that is being seen in the United States, as both nations approach their central banks’ target inflation bands.

In Australia, the target inflation band is 2 to 3 percent, with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) aiming to achieve the midpoint under its new agreement with the Federal Government following a formal review. In its interest rate decision-making, the RBA does not give as much weight to the monthly inflation data because not all prices are measured like they are in the quarterly data. On a quarterly basis, inflation has continued to fall. In the March quarter, the annual rate of inflation was 3.6 percent, down from 4.1 percent in December, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

CBA economist Stephen Wu noted the April data was above the bank’s forecast of 3.5 percent as well as the industrywide consensus forecast of 3.4 percent. He predicts the next leg down in inflation won’t be until the September quarter, when we will see the effects of electricity rebates and a likely smaller minimum wage increase to be announced by the Fair Work Commission next month compared to June 2023.

The most significant contributor to the April inflation rise were housing costs, which rose 4.9 percent on an annual basis. This reflects a continuing rise in weekly rents amid near-record low vacancy rates across the country, as well as significantly higher labour and materials costs which builders are passing on to the buyers of new homes, as well as renovators.

The second biggest contributor was food and non-alcoholic beverages, up 3.8 percent annually, reflecting higher prices for fruit and vegetables in April. The ABS said unfavourable weather led to a reduced supply of berries, bananas and vegetables such as broccoli. The annual rate of inflation for alcohol and tobacco rose by 6.5 percent, and transport rose by 4.2 percent due to higher fuel prices.

Robert Carnell, the Asia Pacific head of research at ING, said they no longer expect a rate cut this year after seeing the April data. Mr Carnell said an increase in trend inflation was apparent and “rate cuts this year look unlikely”. In the RBA’s latest monetary policy statement, published before the April CPI was released, it said: “Inflation is expected to be higher in the near term than previously thought due to the stronger labour market and higher petrol prices. But inflation is still expected to return to the target range in the second half of 2025 and to reach the midpoint in 2026.”

 

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