Monday, June 29, 2009

Take two reveals a brighter property picture

Credit Suisse revises downward its initial estimates for a foreigner exodus

(SINGAPORE) Credit Suisse, which predicted in January that an astonishing 200,000 foreigners and permanent residents (PRs) might leave Singapore in 2009 and 2010 on the back of job losses, now thinks that the exodus may not be as bad as it had expected.

The evidence for this can be gleaned from the bank's forecasts for the property market.

Based on its economists' expectations of historically high job losses (up to 240,000) and an exodus of foreigners (up to 200,000) by the end of 2010, the firm's property analyst Tricia Song had previously assumed that 15,000 homes could be vacated by 2011.

But in a report dated June 19, she says she now believes that just 3,000 private homes will be vacant from 2009 to 2011 as foreigners leave the country.

'Anecdotally, we expect that the number of foreigners leaving Singapore will not be as high as we had expected,' said Ms Song in the report.

This also means that private home prices will not be as badly hit as the firm predicted just six months ago. Credit Suisse had expected private home prices to fall by as much as 60 per cent from the peak to 2005 levels, partly because of the projected 200,000-foreigner exodus.

However, in part due to the smaller-than-expected job losses and foreigner exodus, Ms Song now says home prices could dip 25 per cent in 2009 before recovering 10-15 per cent in 2010.

The main cause for the change of view is a recent update by economist Cem Karacadag, who was part of the team that in January predicted that some 200,000 foreigners and PRs might leave Singapore in 2009 and 2010.

Credit Suisse said then that the potential drop in employment and population would have far-reaching implications for the economy.

But in a recent report, Mr Karacadag said job losses have not been as large as he had feared.
'Singapore's labour market has held up remarkably well in this recession and much better than we had anticipated,' he said in a June 19 economics note.

Among various things, employers appear to have adjusted labour costs through salary cuts rather than cuts in headcount, he said.

Job losses so far this year have been surprisingly low against unprecedented job gains in 2007 and 2008, the note said. Net employment fell by only 6,200 in Q1 2009, although Singapore's real GDP was 10 per cent lower in Q1 2009 compared to Q1 2008.

Mr Karacadag also upgraded his forecast for Singapore's 2010 GDP growth to 4.4 per cent, from 3.9 per cent.

Source: Business Times, 29 June 2009

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