Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Why does Bill Evans want Australia to have a recession?

Bill Evans, Westpac
Glenn Stevens, RBA
Back in July, Westpac's chief economist Bill Evans forecast the European economic problems would slow growth and result in a decrease in official interest rates by 100 basis points.  Nobody else was predicting that, and yes, he got it right when the Reserve Bank dropped rates by 25 basis points in November. But why does he insist on interpreting every statistic through the lens of their own prediction?

By sticking to the prediction that rates will decrease by a further 75bps, Bill Evans is forecasting the cash rate to fall to 3.75%.  That is well below a neutral level, so the only reason we will get a rate that low is if Australia falls into recession. The Reserve Bank is forecasting Australia's growth to continue at trend rate of 3-3.5%, so why does Westpac continue to talk up their prediction and talk down the economy?

Stick to your guns, but be fair

I respect Bill Evans for having a view, but recent economic data is indicating that the Australian economy is turning upwards.  As new data has arrived, it seems that Westpac are only looking for evidence to support their "rates down by 75bps" view, rather than taking an objective look at the figures.

Sure, if they believe that Europe is going to hell in a handbasket, then there is a case that Australia will fall into recession.  But you can't just dismiss positive data because it doesn't fit your theory.

My call is for stable rates

For what it's worth, I think rates will stay where they are now for some time. I don't see any change in December, and the green shoots of growth give me cause to think that by February our consumer economy will be looking OK.  Combined with the very strong mining sector, and my thought that the next inflation numbers won't be quite as low as the October figures, I'm tipping no change in February as well.

Of course, if Europe really does disintegrate, then that's a different story, but unlike Bill Evans, I'd be prepared to change my view if the data do change. (Oh, and I am putting my money where my mouth is!)

Whatever your view might be, you still have a responsibility to interpret new data objectively.  I don't believe that Westpac are doing that at the moment 

Let me know what you think

Mark S

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