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Property and Finance Brief 22 March 2013

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"Thorough and detailed explanation. Taking the time to ensure we understood your explanation by seeking validation from us. That was extremely helpful to us and allowed us to relax through the process.

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Housing affordability lifts in December quarter
Housing affordability surged in the December quarter, according to the HIA-CBA housing affordability index. The index increased by 5.5 per cent representing an 18.4 per cent advance on the same period in the previous year.

This is the eighth consecutive quarter of increase in the index which has seen affordability close to levels seen during the GFC. Regional markets are at levels seen during the early 2000s.

Chinese manufacturing expands in March
Manufacturing activity in China improved in March after expanding at its slowest pace in four months in February, according to a leading index. The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) for March printed at 51.7 points, lifting from 50.4 in February, which was the lowest reading since October.

PMI is a widely watched barometer of the health of China's economy, with a reading above 50 indicating expansion.

China's economy expanded 7.8 per cent in 2012, its slowest pace for 13 years, in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets. But growth accelerated in the final three months of last year to 7.9 per cent, snapping seven straight quarters of weakening expansion.

RBA maintains easing bias
The Reserve Bank of Australia says low interest rates are providing a boost to under-performing parts of the economy but concedes further rate cuts may still be needed. In the minutes of its March 5 board meeting the RBA said there were signs six interest rate cuts delivered between November 2011 and December 2012 were starting to affect weaker parts of the economy.

"Interest rate sensitive parts of the economy continued to show signs of responding to these low rates and it was likely that this still had further to run," the RBA said in the minutes.

The central bank kept the cash rate on hold at its record low level of three per cent at the meeting, but acknowledged further rate cuts may be necessary in the future.

"With inflation likely to remain around the middle of the inflation target, members judged that there would be scope to cut the cash rate further to support demand, should that be necessary."

The RBA said gross domestic product (GDP) growth was likely to remain a little below its long-term trend in 2013 but would pick up after that, with signs investment away from the mining sector would continue to improve.

It also said a further moderation in wages growth would help keep inflation around the middle of the RBA's two to three per cent target range.

House prices up 3.8%
Australian capital city house prices rose an average 3.8% in the last quarter of 2012, according to the Bendigo Bank/REIA Real Estate Market Facts publication. Brisbane's median house price increased 1.2% to $435,000.