RBA considered housing gag
Leaked documents suggest the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) considered asking private firms not to record slumping property prices.
Highly classified documents from the central bank show economists discussing treating the housing market as dysfunctional and shutting down data sources that would let investors know.
Economist Nick Garvin told colleagues that the RBA should stop analysing the housing market as if it were operating normally. He called for the same kind of halt that happens to stock trading in emergencies.
“I think it's dangerous for regulators to be reporting on housing prices as though the market is currently functioning,” he wrote.
“I'd suggest we classify the market as paused, and treat the prices observed before the pause as the current prices — like how equity markets operate, but on a larger scale.
“We should also tell private sector data providers to follow this rule. If people start mistakenly thinking that we're experiencing a housing market crash, it's not going to help things.”
Lindsay David, the founder of LF Economics, described it as a shocking revelation.
“I personally think it's absolutely disgraceful conduct by the RBA that they have appeared to resort to giving what appears to be a manipulation of the information members of the public do and do not have access to in relation to house prices and debt,” he told the ABC.
CoreLogic (formerly RP Data) is one of the leading private sector providers of real estate information. It stopped publishing its daily index on May 20.
CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless says it is not because the RBA demanded it.
“We received no correspondence from any of our clients asking for our market-facing indicators to be removed from publication,” he said in a statement.
“The decision to remove the daily index series from publication on the CoreLogic web site was a cautionary move made due to concerns about the potential for volatility in the daily series at a time when sales activity had fallen by around one third in a month.
“This was a prudent decision at a time when sales observations had fallen sharply.”
Property analysts have also slammed the potential of reducing the transparency of information in a key investment market.
“Quite frankly as a property market information supplier, I am alarmed by intended communications for 'private data providers' to follow,” SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher said.
“Was this prompting the real reason why CoreLogic suspended their daily index from public viewing shortly after? This raises serious questions on the independence market data providers have with the RBA.”