The Australian economy is in the process of exchanging its auction gavel for a hard hat as the housing boom gives way for a new “mini boom” – infrastructure investment.
The federal and state governments will combine to spend around $323 billion over the next four years on planning and building major infrastructure projects, according to Macquarie analysts, which will provide “timely support for the economy as housing fades”.
The mini boom is also “just what the doctor ordered” when it comes to the Reserve Bank’s ongoing headache of weak wages growth.
Around $323 billion in state and federal infrastructure spending over the next four years will provide “timely support for the economy as housing fades”, according to Macquarie. Photo: Paul Jeffers
NSW and Victoria are expected to spend $73 billion each during the four-year cycle by pouring property tax revenue from an explosive period for Sydney and Melbourne markets into new and existing infrastructure projects.
“We expect the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets and political momentum in asset recycling to remain a key source of infrastructure funding for some time,” Macquarie analysts said in a note to clients on Monday.
Other sectors and road work further down the pipeline will easily cover the risk of a sharper housing downturn than we expect and add to growth.Macquarie analysts
“The projects are more labour intensive and less reliant upon a [fly in, fly out] labour force than those completed during the LNG and mining boom and this should make the cycle more manageable.”
Infrastructure projects like the M4 Westconnex in Sydney are will help maintain high levels of employment. Photo: Nick Moir
And while average Australians are won’t be able to directly feel the benefit of booming infrastructure – as they did during the housing boom as their own property’s value soared – opportunities to make money in the “mini boom” can be found.
Macquarie analysts recommend equity investors pivot their portfolio to engineering and planning stocks, such as CIM, LendLease, Boral, WorleyParsons and Downer EDI – all are infrastructure stocks with an “outperform” rating from Macquarie.
But CMC Markets chief strategist Michael McCarthy says most of the benefit to average Australians will be funnelled through their superannuation funds.
“We have seen a trend from managed funds, the superannuation industry in particular, for direct investment in infrastructure projects,” Mr McCarthy said, adding that their returns are stacking up well against other types of investment.
“In many ways, some Australians are going to benefit without even knowing, because their super will be invested in infrastructure.”
For those hoping the mini boom will carve time off peak-hour commutes, a list of major project completion dates provides some clarity. This graphic shows most of Australia’s ten largest infrastructure projects are still a long way off completion.
The biggest project on the list is Sydney’s F6 Motorway extension, which is grabbing headlines this week thanks to a fresh commitment from NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
But from a birds-eye perspective, the projects could deliver a welcome boost to the broader economy, according to Macquarie.
Road construction in the pipeline could be enough on its own to “plug the hole” in Australian GDP left by housing through an expected investment increase to $28 billion from $16 billion per annum.
“We estimate that the weakness in housing over the next two years will be offset just by the work that has already started in roads,” Macquarie said.
“Other sectors and road work further down the pipeline will easily cover the risk of a sharper housing downturn than we expect and add to growth.”
Meanwhile employment in the construction space remains below the pre-GFC peak but is expected to see strong growth over the years ahead – helping with Australia’s ongoing wage growth issue.
“Job creation in construction is picking up and this should eventually lead to stronger wages growth, although even in this sector structural factors that are global by nature seem to be holding down current wage settings,” Macquarie said.