One of the best leading indicators of commercial activity I know is the level of activity at 6.30am late in the trading week at the Flemington markets in Sydney. Whilst it is entirely qualitative, and covers retail activity in a single category, fresh produce, over a long period of observation it has nevertheless been a pretty potent macro forecasting mechanism.
Over the past few weeks I have been out there on a number of occasions, in the critical early hours. The standholders are all sounding worried, their sales are down, and the competition for the sales that are there is fierce, and there is even no real problem getting a park, and wheeling around a barrow.
You can show me all the macro economic models, spreadsheets, and learned forecasts you like, but none have the immediacy, intimacy, and sensitivity as a bit of time at the coal face.
My FMFM (Flemington Markets Forecast Model) developed view, is that we are in for a really tough time. In 6 months, coincidently when we are likely to be in the agonies of another federal election campaign, I will come back to this post, and see again, if the FMFM model is better than all the gumph spin, misinformation, and hubris coming out of our “leaders” in Canberra.