TIP: boffins can't agree what the @#!$ is going on, don't bank on consumption rebound, credit woes

You might be better off consulting a Ouija board at the moment


Earlier this week, we had UBS telling us to expect double-digit economic growth in what's left of 2019. The market seems to be taking yesterday's latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index results more seriously, however; it fell 1.7 per cent in September and showed that more than half of Australia's recipients of tax cuts will bank, not spend their windfalls.


It reckoned that despite an estimated 30 per cent of households due to receive a "meaningful rebate", the majority of Australian households remain pessimistic about their economic outlook.


NAB chief economist Alan Oster agrees with this assessment. He's on record saying this week that official interest rates may need to be cut to 0.25 per cent if the government doesn't start its own economic stimulus program. He says unemployment is more likely to go up than down and without stimulus, businesses aren't likely to start investing more to address the situation and improve wage conditions any time soon.


Instead, we're seeing political attention being given to putting pressure on providers of essential services like energy and childcare to lower consumer costs in an effort to reduce cost of living. According to EY, that's going to make the RBA's job harder, not easier.


NAB's Business Confidence Survey for August has shown the sector felt there had been little impact of tax cuts or interest rates last month. The bank's assessment is that from a business perspective, while a turnaround may be imminent, things are likely to get worse before they improve.


All this contributes to S&P Global's outlook for the Australian property market. It says that while current signs are positive, fears of a new bubble are probably unfounded given weak wage growth and currently high levels of household debt.


So, when will consumers get their mojo back?


While retail stocks - and especially grocery companies like Woolworths - outperformed the market last financial year, economic growth in the June quarter was the slowest it's been in six years. While many will be hoping UBS is right, the disparity of opinions over if and when we'll see a consumer recovery any time soon must be frustrating for retail companies in particular.


ABC online chose yesterday to run this story on the level of credit card debt Australians are in; it showed the average credit card debt sits around $3,000 in this country.


Yet in property, this story from today's Fin shows a tally of the top-performing suburbs across the country that have been quietly booming over the past 12 months. And apartment builders and sellers will be happy to note it's not just detached homes fueling this growth.


...although according to Pace founder, Shane Wilkinson, buyers - and particularly off-the-plan purchasers - should maybe do a little more work before they sign. He reckons in today's AFR that "people do more research before they buy a hotplate than when they buy a new apartment" - and the big question they should be asking is, should I be buying from this developer?


It's good to see an apartment developer willing to stick his head up at the moment and address the issues plaguing his sector.