Australia: news not so good

News reports out of Australia yesterday were in sharp contrast to the recent New Zealand economic news.

The one thing Australia does have in common with this country is continuing rising house prices.

Recently, it was claimed the average Auckland house price was more than that of Melbourne.

Statistics released yesterday showed prices in Melbourne rose 3.2% in January and nearly 12% for the year ending January while prices in Sydney rose 0.8% in the month and 13.4% in the January year.

Australian home values are now 4.8% higher than their previous peak in October 2010, the RP Data Rismark Home Value Index showed.

Building approvals data released showed total building approvals fell 2.9% in December and approvals for private sector houses fell 3.4% in Approvals for private sector multi-unit properties fell 1.2% but last year, total building approvals rose 21.8%Australia also has higher inflation than New Zealand, with price rises last month for education, urban transport fares and utilities.

In the 12 months to January, inflation was 2.5% compared with 2.7% in December.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to cut its official lending rate from 2.5% to 2.25% within weeks, while the Reserve Bank of New Zealand expected to lift its official cash rate from 2.5% to 2.75% next month, putting more pressure on the rising New Zealand dollar's value against the Australian currency.

Fewer Australians were able to put away savings each month and more people were anxious about finding a new job within a couple of months if they needed to, a survey found.

Households battling to save any cash rose 2% to 51% in the six months to December, the ME Bank's biannual Household Financial Comfort Report found.

Single parents suffered the most anxiety, while retirees and couples with children reported the highest level of comfort when it came to savings.

The study of 1500 households also found nearly half had less than $A5000 ($NZ5400) in savings for an emergency while 11% were spending more than they earned. A further 5% were using equity in their own home to make ends meet month-to-month.

And that was if they had a job.

The ANZ job advertisement series found job ads on the internet and in newspapers had fallen again - but the rate of decline was slowing.

The number of jobs advertised in January was 8.9% lower than the previous January following a 16.7% fall in the preceding 12 months.

Low interest rates and a falling Australian dollar were failing to drive expansion in Australian manufacturing activity which had contracted for three months in a row.

The Australian Industry Group's Performance in Manufacturing index fell 0.9 points to 46.7 in January.

Below the 50-point level indicates the sector is contracting and above 50, it is expanding.

It was the third consecutive month of contraction.

Comments from manufacturers indicated a lower Australian dollar had started to benefit some manufacturing businesses but exports remained fragile.

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