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The world’s most expensive location for prime real estate behind Monaco, Central London has seen luxury home values fall for an eighth month. Such locales include Mayfair, St John’s Wood, Regent’s Park, Kensington, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Belgravia and the South Bank neighborhoods of London.

As recently reported by Bloomberg, in November the approximate average value of a house or apartment in the city’s nine most expensive neighborhoods fell 3.6 percent from October, according to an index compiled by Knight Frank. This represents the second largest drop since the index started in 1976. Furthermore, the figures show that property values declined 14 percent since the previous year.

Why is this? Quite simply, vendors are not holding out for emotional prices and are accepting that price reductions have to occur for a sale to be achieved.

Prime Central London real estate has taken longer to register declines seen elsewhere in London because of a standoff between sellers and buyers over price. That ended in September, when the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. caused demand to collapse from those employed in financial services, traditionally the mainstay of demand for expensive homes.

Unsurprisingly, the worst banking crisis seen since the First World War has translated into job cuts and reduced bonuses, and in London it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, with as many as 62,000 finance-related jobs forecast to be lost in London by the end of next year.

Interestingly, the properties least affected by the fall in values are those worth more than five million pounds. With the pound sliding it becomes more attractive to wealthy overseas buyers (yes, they still exist) and given the uniqueness of many of the properties in this category, and how infrequently they come onto the market, they still are highly sought after.

Appreciating that for a buyer with US Dollars, a 15 percent property valuation drop equates to a 35 percent slide when exchange rates are taken into consideration, property in excess of five million pounds is great buying.

Simon Turner

FYI: Read more articles on Luxury Homes; or London; or Credit Crunch

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) decisions to decrease interest rates over the last few months were welcomed by borrowers and lenders alike, most recently with the 0.75% cut in October and the 1% cut in September.

The reality is, however, that most of Australia’s lending institutions have chosen not to pass on the full cuts, citing the increases in their funding costs.

This has left a gap between the fall in official interest rates and the rate reductions for a standard variable mortgage by most banks. The banks obviously have responsibilities to their shareholders, but the simple fact is that the RBA did not make these cuts out of a flight of fancy. The cuts were made with the intent that the banks would pass on the full rate decrease.

As the Acting President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), Chris Fitzpatrick recently stated:

The banks really need to think about their corporate responsibility to their customers and pass the entire rate cut to where it is needed and where the RBA have intended the cuts to go, the people. The RBA does not cut interest rates without reason, they are doing what they see fit to take the financial pressure off households around Australia and to stabilize the economy while keeping inflation in check.’

Obviously, the increase in the banks “bad debts” have not helped, with exposure to companies such as the Lehman Brothers, Allco Finance Group, ABC Learning weighing them down. Bloomberg report that Bad debts jumped to A$930 million in fiscal 2008 from A$496 million a year earlier. Bad debts as a proportion of loans increased to 0.26 percent from 0.14 percent a year ago. Australian banks have investments totaling A$7.4 billion in troubled companies and it is predicted that Australia’s four biggest banks will record about A$7 billion in bad debts this year.

Quite simply, however, it is in the long-term interests of lending institutions that homeownership is affordable and an attractive investment option. The will have a positive effect on the overall Australian economy, which is something that right now is what everyone is looking for.  Simon Turner

FYI: Read more articles on Interest Rates; or the Australian Economy; or Housing Affordability

More information: Go to the RBA; Bloomberg and REIA’s websites

Part 1 of a 2 Part Report (read Part 1)

Yesterday’s rate cut of 75 basis points 0.75%) was the right decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Fifty points (0.5%) definitely would not have been enough after the release of some of the worst economic data in many years. I had predicted in an earlier E Magazine that the cut would be approximately 100 basis points (1%) but the Reserve Bank chose the 75 point cut – maybe concerned that two consecutive monthly cuts of 100 basis points (1%) would look like panic.

After the October rate cut of 100 basis points (1%) the markets enjoyed a short lived spike but since then shares have fallen 11%, the dollar 8.2% – in fact since July the Aussie Dollar has been in freefall from around US98 cents to around US66 cents and every piece of economic data since has shocked on the downside.

So, the October interest rate cut was a huge success – just no Australian seems to have benefited. The new conversation points from the Reserve Bank Governor are China’s economic slowdown, significant weakness in industrialized countries and weaker domestic spending than expected. “.

The Reserve Bank has blood on its hands – they have run monetary policy with a single inflationary vision. Australia has been exceptionally fortunate to benefit from the age old reliance on digging up the country – the resources boom.

The problem is that metal prices are down about 35% this year and coal is down around 50%. Given that entrepreneurship is barely encouraged in Australia and schools teach children to get a job and become employees, what is next for the country?

Last night a US central banker used the word “deflation” and told Bloomberg that there would be no growth in the US next year and that inflation had been “vaporized” – meaning that prices are likely to fall for a period of time. Our Reserve Bank couldn’t see this coming and see that this might affect us?

The fact is that the RBA has been caught with rates way too high and their obsession with controlling inflation is now backfiring as Australia “suddenly” heads toward a recession. The foresight of these people are in line with the “fat cat executives” who suddenly work out that their companies have no money – with all of the models and supposed analytical data at their disposal they seem to find it difficult to look out the window let alone ahead several months..

The official cash rate should be another 1.5-2% lower (at least) than it is now. NSW is a basket case of a State and is in recession – the only Australian State that is – but who will be next to follow? New Zealand is in recession, so is Japan – but the RBA was caught off guard. How?

Michael Marquette

FYI:  Read Part 1, or more stories on Interest Rates, the Australian Economy, or the Credit Crunch

Being in the United States you just have to wonder why some people choose to be in the public eye? Is it the power? Is it the celebrity or is it the wealth? I can’t begin to answer that question but when looking at Michael Bloomberg with his own TV channel and of course a personal net wealth of $11.5 Billion I guess it isn’t the wealth – he has it already.

The New York Mayor and media mogul spent $85 million on re-election in 2005 (what did Clover Moore spend in Sydney?). The sum was $11 million more than in his first election 2001. Now the most famous Mayor in the world is rumoured to be considering jumping into the Presidential race – not now, but maybe in 4 years time.

With talk running hot that Bloomberg could run as Obama’s running mate earlier in the year and now that he may seek an unprecedented mandate for a third term as Mayor of New York City, all eyes are on him to see which candidate he’ll endorse – at this stage he has been quiet on the issue.

 Both Simon Turner and I witnessed an anti-John McCain and Sarah Palin rally in Philadelphia and the passion shown by Americans was intense.

It wasn’t clear if Palin was inside the building or whether Obama had recently departed, but election fever is running hot and it is amazing to see how the Americans express their political views. Both Simon Turner and I also watched the live debate between Obama and McCain only a few hours ago and it appeared that Obama was the winner. America is a wonderful and fascinating country.

Michael Marquette

This morning the Dow Jones plummeted by more than 800 points before recovering and is currently trading in positive territory. Commentators on CNN, Bloomberg and Fox have been touting what would happen if the Dow were to drop to 7479 which would result in trading being halted for 30 minutes. The enormous recovery has excited the market with hopes high that gains continue.

Both the Ford Motor Company and GE (General Electric) have stated that they are not looking to file for bankruptcy protection (Warren Buffett’s recent injection of equity no doubt helps, as will GE’s plan to raise $15 billion from the equity markets). General Motors (GM) is in serious trouble (GM’s share price is at its lowest price in over 50 years) and GE, GM and Ford are all planning massive reductions in their workforces.

After President George W Bush gave his speech in an attempt to steady the market, it fell by around 200 points – showing the lack of confidence shown in the current Administration. I continue to talk to Americans who just want the Federal Election to be over and Barack Obama is far and away the person being touted as the preferred President.

As I am currently in New York which is a predominantly Democratic State, this does not come as a shock, although the sentiment seems far more reaching than just the State of New York. With just over 3 weeks to go to the Presidential election I am sure the President Elect will have plenty to worry about. At this stage it is being reported that Obama is leading by up to 10 points nationally but the election is set to be decided in only a handful of states – Ohio is at the top of the list.

Michael Marquette

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