Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why is a large modern house a "McMansion"?

And why is anybody who wants one "obsessed"? This hate-speech from America's Green/Left now seems to have arrived in Australia. See below. It is just a sneer at ordinary people who don't follow Green/Left fads.

NSW'S obsession with the McMansion is as strong as ever. While the rest of Australia opts for smaller, more efficient abodes, new homes being built in NSW are 22 per cent larger than the national average. Data from property research firm BIS Shrapnel has revealed the average size of new homes in NSW grew 3 per cent this year to about 308.3sq m, compared with a national reduction of 0.8 per cent to 253.1sq m, The Daily Telegraph reports.

AVJennings NSW general manager Rod Killick said the figures revealed NSW buyers still believed "bigger is better". "It has been clear for some time that Australians are starting to prefer homes which are more efficient with their use of space," Mr Killick said. "That means smaller homes in terms of square metres, but it doesn't mean less comfort or amenity. "NSW homebuilders are clearly bucking that trend. "In fact, while NSW's homes were exactly the same size as the national average in 1990, they are now more than 50s m larger - that's more than the size of a double garage."

According to BIS Shrapnel, while the national average house size had grown by almost 12 per cent over the past decade, the NSW average had almost doubled. "In the last 10 years, NSW homes have grown by 23.9 per cent. That's double the national growth average and shows that home builders in NSW still believe bigger is better," Mr Killick said. However he expected obsession with size to wane, with trends suggesting buyers were becoming focused on design and quality.

Mr Killick said he didn't expect the outlandish growth to continue. "AV Jennings is finding that customers are starting to prefer spending their money on smaller homes with better quality inclusions and combined living areas, rather than paying the same for a larger home," Mr Killick said.


High marks for Australia in financial affairs

AS the global economic crisis crippled traditional financial powerhouses, Australia scaled the ranks to be placed second among the world's top financial centres, just behind Britain and up from 11th place last year, according to a World Economic Forum report. The US, which topped the list last year, slipped to third position overall, due mainly to poorer financial stability scores and a weakened banking sector, the WEF Financial Development Report, published on Thursday, said. Germany and France dropped out of the top 10.

Australia also ranked first for financial market access and for low risk of sovereign debt crisis, fifth for banking, and third for non-banking financial services.

"This report highlights what has been a remarkable performance for Australia's financial services sector and gives the nation well-deserved global recognition," Financial Services Minister Chris Bowen said. "This is testament to the strength of our financial system; our solid financial skills base and well-run financial institutions; our system of prudential regulation, and proactive regulators."

Australia has four of the only dozen or so AA-rated banks in the world, due in part to a tight regulatory regime and the domestic banks' limited exposure to poor-quality loans that were the downfall of many banks globally. [They also got a nasty shock over bad debts from Alan Bond and his ilk after deregulation in the '80s -- and they learnt some caution from that]

Australia's so-called "four pillars" policy prevents the four largest banks from merging. That has shielded the four -- ANZ, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac -- from takeover and allowed them to build up profitable, dominant market positions without the need to delve into riskier lending practices.

John Brogden, chief executive of pension and managed funds industry lobby group the Investment & Financial Services Association, said the results were a "testament to our deep and liquid markets, supported by Australia's superannuation (pension) and managed funds sectors". Australia has a $1 trillion-plus retirement savings industry, aided by the introduction of mandatory employer contributions to employee pension funds in the early 1990s.

The WEF's Financial Development Report ranks 55 of the world's leading financial systems and capital markets. Rankings are based on more than 120 variables across institutional and business environments, financial stability, and size and depth of capital markets.

Britain was buoyed by the relative strength of its banking and non-banking activities, such as insurance, said the forum, which each year gives scores to countries according to factors, policies and institutions that lead to effective financial intermediation -- matching savers with borrowers -- and deep and broad access to capital.

Britain's comparative success came despite a poor score for financial stability, one of seven categories of performance on which countries were assessed. For financial stability, the forum identified as problems worries about exchange rate stability, the frequency of banking crises, the manageability of private and government debt and the vulnerability to property bubbles. It ranked Britain 37th out of 55 nations in this category.

This left Britain trailing a string of countries often regarded as economically volatile, including Thailand, Brazil and Poland. Norway, Switzerland and Hong Kong took the three top places for financial stability.

The WEF, best known for its annual gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, also said that Britain needed to improve its institutional environment.


Australia's recovery races ahead of the world

THE Australian economy seems to know only one speed on its road to recovery: fast. After standing tall as one of the few major developed economies to escape the ravages of recession induced by the historic financial crisis, the domestic economy has become a beacon of hope for global markets that the worst of the downturn has passed.

The Reserve Bank this week broke from the powerful G20 pack to become the first central bank to begin a new cycle of tightening monetary policy, at a time when the world's biggest economies are seemingly spluttering back to life. How things have changed. At the very same RBA board meeting one year ago, the bank implemented the first 100 basis point "emergency rate cut".

The response to the 25 basis point rise to 3.25 per cent among global investors to the RBA's policy shift was instant -- and somewhat surprising. For once, an Australian economic move had led the world. The Dow Jones rallied 1.1 per cent on the news and the European markets saw the upside of the stance, which was hailed widely as a positive signal that sustainable growth is back on the agenda. The Australia dollar sailed through US90c, its highest level since August last year, and the S&P/ASX 200 gained 4 per cent in the two days that followed the decision. "People are looking at the Australian rate increase as telling the world that we're coming out of this," a New York trader said.

The tighter monetary stance in Australia is almost certain to be followed by further rises in the months ahead. The interbank futures market, which tipped this week's rate rise even though economists were lukewarm on the prospect, is certain that the central bank will order another 25 basis point hike when it meets in Sydney on Melbourne Cup Day. The odds of a follow-up rise in December are firming, which will give Australia its first three rate hikes in a row in recent times.

But this rush of action comes at a time when the central banks in the major economies of the US, Britain and Europe are still trying to avoid a second shock from emerging and showing no signs of shifting on monetary policy any time soon. On Thursday night, the Bank of England left its main interest rate on hold at 0.5 per cent, while the European Central Bank voted to keep its lending rates steady at 1 per cent.

The futures market predicts there is no chance the US Federal Reserve will move at its November meeting, but is pricing in that the funds rate could be up to 74 basis points higher in the year ahead.

Economist Kieran Davies has forecast rates in Australia will reach 4.5 per cent by June next year after two more hikes in November and December. "In terms of other central banks holding fire, I think it's a reflection of we did not have the banking sector trouble the US and Europe had," he says. "Australia has not had the overhang from the credit crunch. There are other emerging economies that are looking at tightening policy. Australia was the first in the G20 to go but there has been some hawkish commentary from the Reserve Bank of India, Norway looks like raising and there has been talk from the Bank of Korea. It has been a mixture of aggressive policy reaction and good luck that has made this a mild recession in Australia."

The tighter monetary policy conditions in Australia are also expected to make the nation's financial markets a hotspot for global investor funds. The natural home for this market has been the $A, which pushed through the US90c barrier and the maintenance of its momentum has prompted economists to speculate whether parity could occur in the next few months. "We do stand out, with New Zealand, in terms of the returns that are on offer compared with the rest of the world," Davies says.

The dollar was last night trading at US90.37c, as it tracks towards US90.75c -- the high point it reached in August last year before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the worst of the downturn emerged. The recent trajectory means the $A is now 44.06 per cent higher from its March trough of US62.72c and 27 per cent higher than the US71.13c where it began the calendar year.


Australian universities rate highly

DESPITE a hammering in the Asian media over student safety, and fears for the higher education sector's international reputation, Australia's elite universities have consolidated their place in the global rankings. Times Higher Education today published world rankings showing Australia's Group of Eight research universities are all placed in the global top 100.

The ranking, a collaboration between THE and higher education consultants Quacquarelli Symonds, is used around the world by consumers - parents and students - as well as academics looking for work and employers seeking recruits. Universities are ranked in six categories, the most important being peer review. Scores are also given by international students.

Coming as it does in the same week as US-based Australian researcher Elizabeth Blackburn's Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, this year's THES ranking is a fillip to a sector struggling to maintain its international standing against intense global competition. The Australian National University remains the standard bearer for the Group of Eight with an international ranking of 17 - down from the 16th place it enjoyed for the past three years. The ANU is the first university listed on the league ladder outside Britain and the US, which maintain their joint stranglehold on the top positions. Harvard once again claims the No1 world ranking, while Cambridge leapfrogs Yale to take second place.

The other big movers in the top 10 were University College London, whose rise from 7th to 4th relegates Oxford to 5th, a rank it shared with Imperial College London, and California Institute of Technology, which drops five places to 10th. Of the Australians, the University of Sydney gains one spot to tie for 36th place with the University of Melbourne, its perennial interstate rival. Melbourne improved two places on last year's ranking.

The University of Queensland also rose in the rankings, from 43 to 41, as did Monash, from 47 to 45, while the University of Adelaide vaulted from a disappointing 106th place last year to regain a position within the top 100 at 81. The University of NSW dropped two places, from 45 to 47. And while the University of Western Australia slid one place to 84th, it will consider this a minor victory given its fall of 19 places between 2007 and last year.

Senior figures within the higher education sector will feel some relief at the consolidation of Australia's position against the backdrop of negative international publicity generated by the overseas student debacle in the private training sector.

The other international bellwether of university performance, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University world university ranking, will be released next month. The SHJT ranking focuses more on research in the sciences and is regarded by most experts as a more rigorous measure than the THES league table, if more mono-dimensional.


No comments: