Round up the usual decimal points, sorry, suspects. No it’s not Casablanca and Captain Renault’s classic line, but Australia and another example of how some of the galahs in our pet shop of economic horrors pick and choose figures to suit their case. For many of our avians, the monthly jobs report is the most suspect of data (with some reason over the years, going back to 2009-10, when some doubts first emerged after costing at the Bureau of Statistics). The doubters have made hay though as the monthly figures have given us a picture of a strengthening jobs market, with some monthly figures that have been hard to believe (but our galahs have not doubted the poor monthly jobs report).
Yesterday’s fourth-quarter National Accounts though produced a quandary for our friends — the stronger-than-expected 0.6% quarter-on-quarter rise, the upgrade of the September figure to 1.1% from 0.9% and the 3.0% annual rate for 2015 was a bit too much to try to tear down. But off went our galahs and centred on two criticisms — the weakness in national income, which became another “income recession”, a favourite of the Financial Review and other papers. That is certainly a concern, but understandable after a 12% fall in our terms of trade and a big fall in 2014. Another area was to duck off and compare final demand figures in the report for each of the states. State final demand is the total amount of goods and services used in the economy by household consumption, business investment, dwelling investment and government spending. It rose strongly in NSW and Victoria, but fell in WA and Queensland. But final state demand does not include exports, and WA and Queensland are our two major export states (and are enjoying the largest export growth), especially commodities like iron ore, gas, oil, coal, beef, grains and wool. — Glenn Dyer
Planting for profit. For some, unknown reason, deaths in the UK surged 7% in 2015 from 2014, the biggest rise in a single year since 1952. No one knows why. But for Dignity, Britain’s only listened funeral group, it was manna from … well, you know. The company reported yesterday that underlying profits jumped 25% on a 14% rise in sales revenue. Funerals are a boom for Dignity — its shares are up nearly 260% in the past five years, but they dipped 5.7% yesterday. Dignity said in commentary accompanying that full-year results “a change of more than five per cent [in the number of deaths] has not been seen for over 40 years”. Dignity said:
“This has been an extraordinary year, with the number of deaths changing in percentage terms by a greater amount than any year since 1952. As a result, the group’s funeral and cremation volumes were much higher than originally expected.”
Deaths in the UK had been falling since the 1970s. — Glenn Dyer
The end. US shale gas pioneer Aubrey McClendon, who was the founder and former CEO of Chesapeake Energy (one of the earliest companies in the sector), has died in a car crash in America just a day after he was indicted on charges of bid-rigging. US media outlets are reporting that the Oklahoma City Policy Department said in a tweet that 56-year-old McClendon died on Wednesday morning. “Speed was a factor in the accident, and the car was immediately engulfed in flames, police said,” according to the media reports. US federal prosecutors charged him the night before after a grand jury indicted McClendon on antitrust charges and bid rigging. He was the only person indicted in connection with the allegations. He had denied the charges. The alleged conspiracy, which ran between December 2007 and March 2012, involved conspirators deciding ahead of time who would win the leases. McClendon was a co-founder of Chesapeake in 1989, and helped develop and expand the so-called fracking sector in gas which then started exploiting “tight shale rock” formations to produce oil, which led in turn to the collapse in global oil prices from mid 2014. He was forced out of the company around three years ago after he borrowed a billion dollars, using his interest in wells Chesapeake had drilled, without informing anyone. The company and a SEC probe found nothing untoward in the deals. — Glenn Dyer