Gen Z attracted to social bricks-and-mortar shops

Offering the on-trend clothes with an internet option to collect and providing a social meeting place, will always entice the Gen Z spenders into a physical shop, according to AMP Capital’s 2017 Recommended Retail Practice report.
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The increase in men shopping, that was borne out in last year’s report, particularly the rise in “manscaping” with hipster barbers and grooming retailers, has continued, but the age of the male shoppers has lowered, with 46 per cent of male “Future Shoppers” saying they are more interested in staying ahead of popular trends than 36 per cent of their female counterparts.

Moving in packs is also a preferred shopping option, with the survey revealing 56 per cent of male Future Shoppers are more confident when shopping with others compared to 29 per cent of male “Current Shoppers”. Gen Z is defined between the age of about 18 to 22.

This is being reflected in shopping centres when they are redeveloped. They are moving back to being a town centre format where younger shoppers can socialise and shop together.

A desire for an experience is also high on the list for the next generation, as evidenced by the rise in sales and numbers of stores by cosmetic retailers, where the shoppers can have a personalised customer experience that’s exclusive to in-store. This was a focus when AMP upgraded its Pacific Fair shopping centre on the Gold Coast.

The report, From A to Gen Z: Shopping with the Future Generation, found that 87 per cent of n Future Shoppers like or love shopping in-store compared to 79 per cent who like or love to shop online.

The report confirms that the future of traditional shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores remains strong but retailers need to adapt their in-store experience to continue to engage with their changing consumers, particularly the tech-savvy Future Shoppers.

The managing director of AMP Capital Shopping Centres, Mark Kirkland said engaging with the internet is a key opportunity for driving stronger sales in-store as the platform plays an influential role throughout Gen Z’s shopping experience.

“The findings of the 2017 RRP report are significant as it confirms that the future of retail is bright, with a range of new opportunities at our fingertips,” Mr Kirkland said.

“The research highlights the importance of developing fun, social experiences in-store and the opportunities that emerge once brands and retailers align their online and offline offerings. AMP Capital’s RRP report also confirms ns are ethical shoppers, who are willing to invest in sustainable brands, and that male Future Shoppers are the new trendsetters when it comes to fashion.”

Mir Kirkland said another strong trend is for sustainable and ethical retailing, with close to 70 per cent of both Future and Current Shoppers preferring brands that give back to society.

“We saw that 59 per cent of Future Shoppers agreed they would pay more for sustainable products compared to 48 per cent of Current Shoppers.,” Mr Kirkland said.

The real cost of your plastic wrapped vegetables

It’s no secret that the German discount supermarket Aldi does not provide single-use plastic bags at the checkout.
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Instead the supermarket offers large multi-use bags for 15 cents a pop, in line with its support for “a complete ban on single use plastic bags.”

On the surface it is a responsible policy, which goes one better than those of rivals Coles and Woolworths, who still issue complimentary single-use bags with every purchase.

But as any Aldi shopper would know, the push away from plastic does not extend storewide.

Aldi, along with Coles and Woolworths, makes liberal use of plastic packaging in its fresh produce section, much to the chagrin of environmentally conscious shoppers.

A waste initiative launched by the Environment Protection Authority in 2015 found 217 NSW supermarkets disposed of more 230 tonnes of plastic film and wrap, an average of one tonne per supermarket, per year.

Pre-diced onions in sealed plastic bags, chopped mushrooms in plastic trays, cucumbers and zucchinis beneath a tight layer of cling wrap. You want it – ‘s supermarkets have it.

Executive director of the Total Environment Centre Jeff Angel describes it as “marketing gone mad.”

“It’s socially irresponsible. This level of convenience is not [necessary],” he said.

“Marine plastic pollution is a world crisis and the concentration around n waters is alarming.”

A Fairfax Media survey of the produce section of an inner Sydney Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, found similarities in their use of plastic packaging.

Coles and Woolworths stocked almost identical offerings of their fruits and vegetables in every form: loose (with plastic freezer bags available), sealed in bags, laid on styrofoam or plastic trays and wrapped in cling wrap, or in plastic punnets.

For example Coles offered loose Royal Gala apples for $2 a kilo, as well a one-kilogram plastic bag of apples for the same price.

Tomatoes were also offered loose, on a tray with plastic wrap, sealed in a bag or in a punnet.

At Woolworths, capsicums, potatoes, corn and cauliflower could also be purchased loose, wrapped on a tray, or sealed in a bag.

Aldi offered a range of wrapped and unwrapped fruits and vegetables, while others could not be purchased without packaging; namely zucchini, kiwi fruit, corn, carrots and mushrooms.

Kale could not be purchased at any of the three stores without plastic wrap, while eggplant was one of the only vegetables consistently offered without packaging at all three stores.

An Aldi spokeswoman said it was investigating best practice in plastic packaging.

“Aldi’s most recent response to the n Packaging Covenant’s requirements…includes the development of Sustainable Packaging Guidelines [for] our exclusively branded products.”

Professor Gay Hawkins from Western Sydney University said the image of pre-peeled vegetables “on a tray covered in glad wrap” symbolised the “over-packaged world”.

Her current research project, ‘The Skin of Commerce’ attempts to explore the history and role of plastic packaging in .

“Getting data on this in is really, really hard. But it seems it was really the 1970s when plastic started to take off,” she said.

“Pre-World War II plastic was seen as a kind of inferior substitute???a fake material. Then with the development of thermoplastics, which can be stretched and moulded…it became applied to every area of life.”

Professor Hawkins said the proliferation of plastic was a problem for industry, which needed to “completely rethink its relationship” with the material.

A Coles spokeswoman said packaging was required to maintain freshness and food safety, and most trays used were made of “full recyclable” PET.

At Woolworths packaging is also used for food preservation, while any new recyclable packaging options were required to meet existing food safety standards.

“…Polystyrene trays in our produce organics supply network [have been] converted to compostable trays or recyclable plastic,” a spokesman said.

Both Coles and Woolworths are party to the closed loop REDcycle program, which allows customers to return plastic bags and packets to the store to be recycled.

Chief executive officer of the n Packaging Covenant Trish Hyde said n retailers were “actively pursuing” sustainable alternatives.

“This is the biggest challenge we have. Plastic in some respects offers more than other forms…but it is harder to recycle in many circumstances.”

The tiny Melbourne suburb that almost didn’t exist

Tiny Melbourne suburbs that pack a punchWhere you can’t buy a house for under $1mMap shows boom in $1m median suburbs
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Deepdene is to Balwyn what Cremorne is to Richmond, a neighbourhood which became its own suburb, but kept the postcode.

Deep pockets are required to live here, equal with Canterbury as the second most expensive suburb behind Toorak. The tiny breakaway suburb ??? which only became a suburb in 2010 after a local campaign??? is just one square kilometre in size, but packs a property punch with a median house price of $2.6 million, according to Domain Group data.

Boosting that was a $6.36 million sale last April of a five-bedroom resort-style period home with tennis court at 16 Barnsbury Road. It was snapped up by a Chinese buyer on an investor visa. The auction showed the clamour to claim a piece of the idyllic surrounds, and another shift in the area’s demographic.

It’s part of a Liberal party stronghold, with the Labor party failing to have a look-in since federal seat Kooyong was drawn up in 1900. Like many parts of Melbourne, Deepdene’s name is a nostalgic nod to the mother country. It shares its title with a country estate near London because of the similarity of the magnificent views at both places.

Before the area’s high ground was taken over by Robert Reid, it was an Aboriginal lookout and a camping ground. Two of Melbourne’s best known Aboriginal identities, Bill Onus and singer Harold Blair, lived in Deepdene in the 50s and 60s, leading the campaign for a “yes” vote in the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal recognition.

A dene is defined as the deep wooded valley of a river. Though there’s no river running though the Melbourne version, English aesthetics abound with stack-stoned homes, cottage gardens and concrete streets.

Single occupancy zoning and village greens, used for sport, create a sense of space for the 2100 people who call it home. Deepdene Footy Club used a local three-hectare park after fielding teams in 1911, with the side inspiring such loyalty that one vice-captain travelled from Ballarat to play for five years.

About the same time, students at the primary school (still a drawcard) would stand on a rail fence to wave to the engine driver of the Deepdene dasher, on the outer circle line.

The train’s gone, but the gum-lined Anniversary Circuit walking trail is another chance to exhale in a haven inside a 10 kilometre radius of the CBD.

But residents are anything but relaxed about threats to their tightly-held dwellings. In heritage-overlaid Reid Estate, owners of Tudor homes with low-fenced front yards all know each other’s names. Many have been there for decades and have banded together to protect their patch and fight institutional creep.

“The war is on to make sure houses are not rolled by a school car park,” explained Victoria Nicholls, from resident action group, HO192.

But the battle to preserve character has been lost in other parts of Deepdene, where bulldozers have made way for faux-chateaus and Neo-Georgians.

Charming original streetscapes have been disrupted by boundary-bursting McMansions. The precinct’s generous blocks make it magnetic to investors, eager to have proximity to Melbourne’s elite private schools.

Local councillor Felicity Sinfield says her biggest frustration is that she can’t do enough to protect character.

“I’m hamstrung by the state government’s policy,” she says, referring to the recently released Plan Melbourne strategy, which looks at long term land use and infrastructure

The push is on to make Deepdene’s strip shops a lively hub for locals and a destination for visitors. The revival of the bygone bustle is beginning with a couple of coffee shops, a Pho restaurant and Postino serving up a popular prosciutto pizza. There’s still a straight-laced sparseness though, perhaps the remnants of the long established alcohol ban in the leafy eastern belt.

The tram along Whitehorse Road, once horse-drawn, now takes passengers to the CBD in 40 minutes. Just as well, because traffic connector Burke Road moves at a snail’s pace. The 109 stops outside “The Providore”, a paddock-to-plate cafe decorated with a striking two-storey “Tree of Life” mural, the type more common in Deepdene’s artistic northern neighbours.

Owner Clare Voitin aims to make her business a welcoming meeting point, serving “what a mum would feed her kids”. She is well aware of the shift in her surrounds, especially in land value since settling 12 years ago. “Since we’ve bought here, things have gone crazy. There’s been dramatic change in the area,” Voitin says.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria data shows a 56 per cent rise in per square metre land value over the past seven years, to $3,678. Sport, schools & postcode pride have tightened the community, but Voitin is now using food as a way for people to know the person they live next to.

Her husband remembers fruit orchards in the area and Clare is rekindling old-fashioned country sentiments like street greetings and sharing produce. To reconnect residents, she’s promoting public gardens and has started a food swapping program where 10 neighbours plant vegetables, fruit trees and herbs, to feed each other organically for a year.

She’s “hellbent” on maintaining the close-knit community which made Deepdene attractive in the first place.

Walker Corp kicks off $2b Parramatta project

Walker Corporation has moved a step closer to the rejuvenation of the $2 billion Parramatta Square precinct with the appointment of Mainland Civil to do the civil works.
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The evolution of Parramatta will also see the construction of The Lennox, a new $400 million mixed-use development at 12 Phillip Street.

The 47-level project is being developed via a project delivery agreement in conjunction with City of Parramatta and PCC DevCo1, a company initially established by LIDIS Group, with development management by EQ Projects.

The launch of The Lennox signifies the next step in the rejuvenation and growth of Parramatta, with the project totalling 5500 square metres of retail space and 441 luxury residences.

The 6300 sq m metre riverfront site, at the junction of the historic Lennox Bridge and Church Street dining and shopping precinct, will also include a 120m boardwalk to improve connectivity and activate the riverfront.

A Parramatta Square, first stage of works unlocks the precinct and enables Walker to deliver the first two of four major buildings, which have been pre-committed to National Bank for 42,000 sq m and Property New South Wales for 63,000 sq m.

The first two buildings will be delivered in 2019 and 2020, as well as a public domain of 6000 sq m. The final two buildings will be delivered mid-2021.

Walker Corporation chairman Lang Walker said the start of the earthworks is a commitment to deliver on “our promise to council, our tenants and the Parramatta community”.

“The first stage of delivery has been driven by our tenants and the demand for industry-leading office space that caters to the needs of Parramatta’s future workforce and it’s growing population of young, highly educated individuals,” Mr Walker said.

Walker Corporation is also working closely with Sydney Transport for NSW to facilitate a state-of-the-art rail station connection, providing access for commuters from the station directly through the base of the towers into the public domain and 3000 sq m of retail space, and the north of the central business district of Parramatta.

Conceived by award-winning architects Johnson Pilton Walker (JPW), the first two buildings (3 and 4) have been designed with a focus on workforce health, well-being and productivity in order to raise efficiency and inspire creativity.

According to the head of residential at Savills , Ged Rockliff, new developments like The Lennox come at a time when property prices in Parramatta are outperforming the average growth seen across Sydney.

“Property values in Parramatta have experienced strong growth over the past decade, with apartment prices increasing by 118 per cent but it remains a more affordable option when compared to central Sydney,” Mr Rockliff said.

The Lennox team has collaborated with Marchese Partners on the interior architectural design and Lorena Gaxiola on the interiors

Coles kills life insurance offer

Supermarket giant Coles once described selling life insurance as a “natural progression” for the business.
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But the Wesfarmers-owned chain has quietly stopped selling life insurance, amid an apparent move away from financial services under Coles boss John Durkan.

“It [life insurance] was announced with a bit of fanfare, but it never really realised its potential,” said one person familiar with the decision. “It’s well publicised that Durkan is not a fan of financial services within a retail environment.”

Coles started selling life insurance in May 2014, promoting coverage for as little as $1 a week and promising to beat a direct life insurer’s price on comparable premiums.

Price matching is unusual and challenging for life insurers because policies are designed to be priced to the individual’s health risks.

Coles’ then finance director Rob Scott, “Through our home and car insurance offerings, Coles has already helped thousands of families save hundreds of dollars each year, and we think life insurance should be no different.”

Mr Scott, who is now deputy chief executive of Wesfarmers, had said that financial services were a great way to leverage the company’s brand, distribution and analytics as well as create “stickier” customers.

In response to Fairfax Media’s inquiries, Coles said, “As part of a regular review of our product portfolio, Coles ceased distributing life insurance products on 1 January.

“From this date, Coles Life Insurance customers who hold a current policy became MetLife customers.

“MetLife, which has backed Coles Life Insurance policies since their launch, has provided these customers with continuation of cover and no changes have been made to the product as a result of Coles exiting life insurance. The process for customer queries and claims is also unchanged.”

Coles rejected suggestions it never had more than 5000 policyholders, and that it had a very high proportion of people agreeing to buy a policy over the phone and then not proceeding.

Coles continues to sell car, home and landlord insurance, as well as credit cards.

Car, home and landlords are simpler products than life insurance, with lower regulatory risks and fewer competitors. Suncorp and IAG have about 80 per cent of the market in home and car insurance.

Rival Woolworths has sold insurance products – car, home, landlords, pet, life, travel and funeral – since 2012 and said it had no plans to stop selling life insurance.

The life insurance sector has been hit with rising claims, expensive premiums and negative perceptions of the industry after the scandal that engulfed the Commonwealth Bank’s insurance arm, CommInsure over the use of outdated medical definitions to deny claims.

‘Don’t get caught up in the hype’: Price bust lessons in our backyard

If is in a housing bubble, we’ll only know when it’s poppingWA driving nationwide rise in mortgage stress for homeownersSorry folks, this ain’t no property bubble
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Debate is again raging about the housing bubble: when will it pop, how can we stop it, does it even exist?

But the one irrefutable fact driving the conversation is the runaway train that is Sydney and Melbourne property prices; and what will happen if it – at some point – comes off its tracks.

Across the Nullarbor, has a case study of just that: Perth was a major city market that saw a considerable boom, followed by a significant bust.

Higher unemployment, a significant decline in population growth and an exodus of workers because of the slowdown in the resources sector saw Perth prices fall 7.3 per cent since December 2014, according to Domain Group data. Perth home owners who bought during the peak have watched the value of their property drop in some cases by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And though the variables between WA’s economy and that of NSW and Victoria are completely different, there are a few lessons that east can learn from west.

“It is apples and oranges,” AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said. “They had a mining boom which then when bust, we don’t. The economy in Sydney a lot more diverse. But I think the lesson really is that good times end, prices do fall and in some ways, Perth is a timely reminder of that.” Supply and demand

The median price in Perth peaked at the end of 2014 and has been declining slowly ever since, according to Steven Rowley, associate professor and director of n Housing and Urban Research Institute’s Curtin Research Centre. He described the state of the Perth market as “difficult”. Although he did note a significant variation between postcodes, meaning plenty of suburbs saw price rises over the past couple of years, while others declined more quickly than the median.

Some suburbs have also been hit particularly hard hit by mortgage stress, according to the latest report by global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s. Butler, a newer Perth suburb popular with young families – many of whom would have been fly-in fly-out workers – had the third largest percentage of mortgage arrears in the country, at 5.12 per cent.

Many first-home buyers who bought on Perth’s fringe during the boom saw the value of their properties drop because policy incentives pushed first-timers to buy new.

The resources sector slowdown coincided with a record period of new dwelling construction in Perth, meaning the drop in demand coincided with increased supply, according to Mr Rowley.

“[The Perth market] is a normal market reaction to falling demand and increased supply,” Mr Rowley said. “As demand increases and new supply falls, prices will start to recover slowly. The question is will population growth get back to the levels seen in the early part of this decade and will the economy recover sufficiently to generate confidence in the housing market and stimulate both investors and owner purchasers?”

In Sydney and Melbourne’s favour, a huge population boom and high level of overseas investment demand puts the two cities in a better position than Perth. The risks in Sydney and Melbourne

The NSW and Victorian economies are much more diverse than WA’s, where 50 per cent of the economy relied on exports, according to NAB chief economist Alan Oster. The same levels of unemployment that WA saw would therefore be unlikely.

“You’ve got to look out for something that might kill economy and internally that’s very difficult to see at present,” Mr Oster said. Even if the massive construction industry was to decline, he said, industries such as investment, health, education and services could offset it.

“It’s more likely, to the extent you’re going to have anything, that it’s going to come through a China shock or a Trump shock [in Sydney and Melbourne], there’s nothing internally causing that sort of grief.”

Mr Rowley agreed a collapse was unlikely, unless there was some sort of economic or policy shock, particularly affecting investor demand; domestic or overseas. Price drops don’t mean affordability

For those hoping for a Perth-style drop for prices in Sydney and Melbourne, Mr Rowley noted that price falls did not mean housing was any more affordable for those on low to moderate incomes.

“In Perth, three years of falling rents and prices has made the market no more affordable to those in the lower income groups,” he said.

“For those on moderate and steady incomes the situation has certainly improved, but those most in need of affordable housing are really no better off.” Interest rates

The interest rate level has been a main saver of the Perth market, according to REIWA president Hayden Groves, who said the market was a lot more robust than those on the other side of the country may think.

“[Low interest rates] meant that unless you were absolutely compelled to sell, you didn’t have to,” Mr Groves said. “You had equity to play with, even if things got tough and you lost your job, you could fairly comfortable refinance.”

If interest rates stayed low, Mr Groves said, and Sydney and Melbourne prices did drift away, it would be a relatively soft landing. But he said those that got into the market as speculative investors within the past 12 months may find themselves losing the breakaway capital growth they’d seen in the short term.

“The markets are so very different, it’s hard to draw precise parallels, but one lesson is: don’t get caught up in the hype.

“As an investor, when you’re hearing those barbecue or water cooler conversations saying, ‘I bought investment property and it was so easy I bought another’, those comments fuel speculative investment,” he said. “My advice in Sydney and Melbourne is be cautious and make sure you diversify.”

Charter Hall undertakes $200m debt placement

Property landlords are now weighing into the favourable debt markets with close to $900 million raised in the past week to provide the real estate investment trusts with secure and longer-termed bank facilities.
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With a continued focus on bond/credit markets and the risk of rising funding costs over time, the debt issuances are seen as “pseudo bonds”, according to property analysts.

Charter Hall Long WALE REIT is the latest to tap into the international debt markets with a US private placement of $200 million to provide funding and retire some expiring bank debt.

It was undertaken by the Long WALE Investment Partnership, in which the Long WALE REIT owns a 45 per cent interest, alongside Hostplus and Charter Hall Group. The REIT owns a 100 per cent interest in 54 hotel assets across , which are leased to pub operator, ALH Group for 17.5 years.

The deal is the first for the partnership and comprises a 10-year $200 million note priced at an all-in cost of debt of 5 per cent and is due to settle on May 11, 2017.

The Long WALE REIT fund manager, Avi Anger said the trust will continue to focus on actively managing the portfolio, acquiring assets with long leases to “high-quality tenants and implementing prudent capital management initiatives” to create value and “deliver sustainable and growing returns for investors”.

“Charter Hall Long WALE REIT’s 2017 operating earnings and distribution guidance is unchanged. The issuance is also expected to be net tangible asset neutral.”

Retail giant Scentre Group last week priced a $US500 million ($650 million) 10-year fixed-rate senior guaranteed notes with a coupon of 3.75 per cent. Proceeds of the issue will be used to repay borrowing under the group’s revolving bank facilities.

“After swapping this back into floating $A exposure, and assuming a 170 basis point margin, this implies a cost of about 3.5 per cent. For 10-year money, we thought this was pretty good pricing,” brokers at Shaw & Partners said.

The debt issues also come as the Reserve Bank retained the official cash rate at 1.5 per cent.

Investa Office Fund has also moved to the bond sector with the issue of its inaugural Green Medium Term Note. This is the first certified n-dollar green bond to be issued by an n REIT.

IOF will issue $150 million of seven-year green bonds with a fixed coupon of 4.262 per cent per annum and a maturity date of April 5, 2024. The issue of the green bond primarily addresses the expiry of IOF’s $125 million of medium-term notes in November 2017.

According to IOF’s fund manager, Penny Ransom, the offering was received “favourably by the market and was over-subscribed”.

“It reinforces Investa’s corporate sustainability leadership and provides important support to the growth in the green finance market. IOF has selected to have its inaugural green bond independently assured, and ultimately certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative,” Ms Ransom said.

Proceeds from the green bond issue will be used to reduce IOF’s existing bank debt facilities and will be fully allocated against a portfolio of low-carbon buildings 1 within IOF’s portfolio.

APRA crackdown won’t slow investors: analysts

The latest attempts by the banking regulator to cool the housing market will not address financial stability concerns or slow investor lending, analysts say.
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It comes as the Reserve Bank of held the cash rate steady at 1.5 per cent for the 12th consecutive month amid growing pressure for it to increase rates to contain soaring house prices.

Morgan Stanley said the latest measures by the n Prudential Regulation Authority would reduce the amount of higher-risk lending.

But it said it was “not convinced that they will materially slow growth in investment property”.

“In fact, there is still incentive for banks to lend to investors, as return on equities on investment property loans are now 14 per cent higher than [returns] on owner-occupier loans,” it said.

Soaring house prices in Melbourne and Sydney prompted the APRA on Friday to tighten rules around interest-only lending while the n Securities and Investments Commission moved on Monday to raise scrutiny of the same category.

This has triggered mounting pressure on the government to put tax breaks for property investors such as negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions under review.

New data on Monday from CoreLogic showed house values surged another 1.4 per cent across in March, pushing annual price growth to 19 per cent in Sydney and 16 per cent in Melbourne.

House values in Sydney are now growing at their fastest yearly rate since November 2002, while growth across all capital cities is at a seven-year high (12.9 per cent).

The Reserve Bank of kept the official cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent on Tuesday.

RBA Governor Philip Lowe said conditions in the housing market continued to vary considerably around the country.

“In some markets, conditions are strong and prices are rising briskly. In other markets, prices are declining,” he said.

“In the eastern capital cities, a considerable additional supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years. Growth in rents is the slowest for two decades.”

Dr Lowe said the recent APRA changes would help address risks associated with high and rising levels of indebtedness.

“Growth in household borrowing, largely to purchase housing, continues to outpace growth in household income,” he said.

“Lenders need to ensure that the serviceability metrics that they use are appropriate for current conditions. A reduced reliance on interest-only housing loans in the n market would also be a positive development.”

Stephen Walters, a chief economist at the n Institute of Company Directors, said the RBA was sounding more anxious about housing.

“It hints that the behind the scenes debate among officials on housing market risks has stepped up another notch, with the various regulators now all pulling firmly in the same direction,” he said.

Morgan Stanley said the softer-than-expected APRA changes left the door open for interest rate rises and further capital requirements for banks, which the regulator could pursue in June. This could add up to $16 billion to major bank capital requirements, it said.

It also predicted house price growth to slow.

“It would be naive of us to claim a material house price correction is inevitable and imminent. However, slower loan growth and house price weakness look increasingly likely,” analysts said.

Iron ore slides below $US80 mark

The price of iron ore has extended its recent retreat, amid unrelenting negative sentiment about inventories of the steel-making raw material in China and demand for steel in the nation.
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Iron ore slid 1.3 per cent to $US79.36 a tonne on Monday night, extending its pullback from its February 21 high of $US94.86 to more than 16 per cent. It’s now at its lowest since January 9; it ended 2017 at $US78.87 a tonne. China’s futures markets were closed due to a public holiday.

“Traders are now concerned about the physical capacity at ports and their ability to hold any additional iron ore if the current pace of increases continues,” ANZ said.

The latest price setback for iron ore also comes as China’s central bank seeks to cool the nation’s property market by gradually tightening monetary policy through liquidity controls and higher market interest rates. Over the weekend, the People’s Bank of China lifted rates for loans for small- and medium-sized financial firms.

In addition, there are concerns about what may emerge from this week’s meeting of China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in Florida. Mr Trump has been hammering away at China for months about the value of its currency and the loss of US manufacturing jobs, but has yet to take any concrete action. Mr Trump also has signalled that his administration plans to overhaul international trade practices.

According to the latest SteelHome survey, iron ore inventory at 46 Chinese ports stood at 132.10 million tonnes on March 31, down 0.35 million tonnes or 0.26 per cent from the previous week.

Credit Suisse analyst Matthew Hope last week said steel, and iron ore, fell mostly because speculators unwound bets as sentiment shifted. Mr Hope argued in a note that iron ore inventories were “not high” and, in contrast, steel inventory in China is “relatively depleted”.

Li Xinchuang, the vice-president of the China Iron and Steel Association, last week told a conference in Perth that he expects more volatility in the price of iron ore, forecasting a range of $US55 to $US90 a tonne in 2017, averaging about $US65 for the year. In part that reflects what Mr Li sees as the result of increased iron ore output in China, with producers chasing the earlier surge in prices, as well as increased global supply.

China imported 90.3 million tonnes of iron ore in March, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts.

If the estimate is matched by official customs figures, due next week, it will be only the fifth time that monthly imports have exceeded 90 million tonnes, the other occasions being January this year, November and September last year and in December 2015.

Land sales increase to $13 billion

‘s residential land market grew 6 per cent last year with 57,381 housing lots released to the market, according to a new State of the Land report.
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The analysis, released by lobby group, the Urban Land Development Institute, shows the number of transactions increased 10 per cent – 53,107 lots worth more than $13 billion sold in 2017.

The report, based on the National Land Survey Program researched by Charter Keck Cramer and Research4, covers 1200 new housing estates in major capitals.

The report, released at the UDIA’s annual conference in Perth, comes amid intense discussion about housing affordability and follows new ABS data showing ‘s population grew by 348,700 in the 12 months to September 2016.

Melbourne’s greenfields market is booming with a record 22,700 lots released in 2016 making up 40 per cent of the national market. Victoria also welcomed the lion’s share of new immigrants with 127,500 people moving to the state.

The number of lots released last year in Melbourne rose 14.5 per cent from the previous 2015 high. Turnover is so fast that Melbourne and Sydney have barely a month’s worth of stock available at one time.

UDIA Victorian chief executive Danni Addison said “Melbourne’s greenfield market continues to outperform other capital cities with a significant portion of the nation’s annual lot sales”.

“While the median lot price remains lower than the national median, Melbourne’s greenfield market is experiencing rapid price growth, which is concerning from a housing affordability perspective,” Ms Addison said.

Nationally, advertised median lot prices rose 10 per cent during 2016 and are up 24 per cent over four years. The median price of a lot in Melbourne rose 11.3 per cent in 2016 to $237,000 – the biggest price increase since 2010.

Sydney’s asking prices plateaued last year at $465,000 after jumping 35 per cent in the previous two years.

But the increased prices are not a national phenomenon. In Perth, median prices have fallen 12.5 per cent as the end of the mining boom cruelled the local market.

Villawood managing director Rory Costelloe said the mood in Perth was “subdued”.

“But the Melbourne market is certainly on fire, fuelled by migration. For the immigrants from India, the Middle East and Sri Lanka, they want to live in detached houses, they don’t want to live in apartments in the inner city,” Mr Costelloe said.

“In Sydney the market is still strong but the edge has come off a bit,” he said.

In Victoria, Villawood is selling as much in the regional city of Geelong as it has in Melbourne, he said, with buyers attracted by the infrastructure – hospitals and schools – already in place.

“For affordability, you’ve got Wyndham Vale, the further north or Pakenham but they just don’t have the infrastructure,” he said.

To maintain affordability, the report found median lot sizes shrunk to 407 square metres, from 428 square metres in 2015 and 458 square metres in 2014.

This move, which appears to maintain affordability, has effectively increased the price of land per square metre by 13 per cent to $602.

The State of the Land report predicts around 54,000 lots will be released this year with capacity constrained in Sydney and Melbourne and weaker demand in Perth and Adelaide.

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