Today in property: business confidence up but conditions down, QLD slugs foreign property investors

It really does depend on your point of view.


Business conditions are flat but the mood is hopeful, according to NAB's latest monthly business confidence index, released yesterday. The latest edition has plenty to laugh and cry about, depending on which point of view you're feeling inclined towards.


The ABC has taken the doom-and-gloom approach in this piece, pointing out that business conditions fell further in May - particularly in the retail sector, which is taking a big hit at the moment; it's not been this bad for shopkeepers since the GFC. The Australian however, has chosen to focus on the strong rebound in business confidence, which shot up following the federal election.


The AFR split the difference between the two, digging deeper and calling on the economists to give their take. The brains from Westpac and NAB both cautioned taking the results too seriously given the artificial conditions created by the election.


The pundits agree that there's a fiscal stimulus job to be done. For example, there's hope that the ABS figures released last Friday showing soft home lending in April will tell a different story when the May figures swing around.


Not that the hopeful have much to celebrate in Queensland today. We heard from a range of the country's eminent economists warning earlier this week that employment is one of the only things keeping Australia's economy afloat at the moment - yet QLD Treasurer Jackie Trad unveiled a state budget yesterday slugging business with an increase in payroll tax to cover the cost of its overspending on a ballooning public service.


Taking a leaf out of the Victorian state budget's playbook, Ms Trad also announced a raft of new land taxes for companies and trusts, and absentee foreign investors. The two tax hikes are together expected to raise shy of $800 million over four years for a state that is expected to be $90 billion in debt within the same period.


And so, the obligatory winners and losers list from the QLD state budget - in which foreign property investors, foreign corporate and trustee landowners, and corporate and trustee land owners all feature on the latter list.


What are we likely to see come out of the NSW budget next Tuesday? One piece of scuttlebutt is that the Berejiklian government will be looking to sell the state's remaining electricity assets to fund ongoing infrastructure projects - even though it was ruled out by the Premier in April.


Infrastructure investment will be a big topic of conversation in the AFR over the next few days, as it draws content from its National Infrastructure Summit. Given the focus on construction jobs and investment as an immediate way federal and state governments can stimulate growth in this soft global economic period, this will be one to watch.


Speaking of stimulus, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann went on record again yesterday with the promise of cutting power prices by up to 30 per cent.


A couple of pieces of news today around apartment developers. It emerged yesterday that Melbourne skyscraper development Australia 108 has suffered from more than 100 off-the-plan buyer defaults or cancellations - equating to a 10 per cent cancellation rate. And troubled Sydney developer Merhis Group is back in the news today with liquidators finding one of its subsidiaries, Stacey Apartments P/L - the corporate entity responsible for the Group's $78 million Bankstown tower - has been trading insolvent since June 2016.


Lastly for today, Australia's mortgage brokers are gearing up for another fight, this time over what they see as a risk of their sector being lumped in with the "best interests duty" obligations being imposed on financial planners.