By Peter Switzer

After our stock market picked up another boost higher from another well-received Donald Trump speech, it should also be pointed out that our market march higher has a bit to do with a damn good run of economic data. And to all the economists out there who were predicting one or two rate cuts because of a struggling economy, it screams: “Get a new computer model of the Oz economy!”

Some newspapers can’t help themselves, telling their readers that the penalty rates decision will hurt the Government. My question is: why won’t a better economy, with lower unemployment, rising business as well as consumer confidence, trade surpluses and rising wages actually make the Turnbull team gain a few more likes?

I guess if the media doesn’t crow about it, well it could reduce the impact of a good economy, which looks set to get stronger over 2017. Deloitte Access Economics’ economist, Chris Richardson, told me this week on my TV show that a surge of national income is on the way, so you can forget about income recession talk that some alarmists have been talking about over the past two years.

Chris isn’t as likely to be as bullish as me, so for him to join my herd is very comforting. However, opinions are one thing but the facts of the case are more important, so let me list what we’ve seen on the economy recently.

Here goes:

  • The economy grew by 1.1% in the December quarter, after contracting 0.5% in the September quarter. Annual economic growth lifted from 1.9% to 2.4%. 
  • Unemployment fell from 5.8% to 5.7% with the January reading.
  • The weekly ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating rose by 6.1 points (4.7%) to a 6-week high of 119.1 in the week to February 26.
  • The NAB business conditions index surged from +9.9 points to +16.2 points in January – a 9-year high. The business confidence index rose from +5.7 points to a 3-year high of +9.8 points.
  • Economy-wide sales rose by 0.6% in the December quarter, after falling 0.1% in the September quarter. Annual growth of sales lifted to 2.7%, the biggest rise in five years.
  • The CoreLogic Home Value Index of capital city home prices rose by 1.4% in February and was up 11.7% over the year.
  • Private sector credit rose by 0.2% in January, after a 0.7% gain in December. Investor housing finance lifted 0.6% in January to stand 6.6% higher over the year – the fastest growth in 11 months.
  • After a rough year, new dwelling approvals rose by 1.8% in January.
  • The Performance of Manufacturing index rose by 8.1 points to 59.3 in February – the strongest result since 2002. A reading above 50 indicates that the sector is expanding. This was the fifth consecutive month of expansion!
  • Company operating profits rose by 20.1% in the December quarter to record highs. This is CommSec’s take on profits: “The earnings season has been good. Very good. Only eight companies from the ASX 200 have produced a statutory loss for the six months to December.”
  • Car sales are close to record highs.
  • Our trade surplus is $1.3 billion in January, while in December it was $3.3 billion. We usually have trade deficits!
  • The broadest measure of the trade accounts – the current account – improved in the December quarter (smaller deficit), with the deficit falling from $10.2 billion to $3.85 billion – the smallest deficit in over 15 years.
  • Our super funds have had another great year after the stock market has surged since February 2016 by, wait for it, 22.7%!

The economy hasn’t experienced a recession for more than 25 years. This year we should be hailed as having the greatest growing economy of all time, if we don't see a recession by September.

Seriously, we’ve had problems with wages growth and business investment but both of these trouble spots for the economy will improve, if the data above can be believed.

Economies seldom benefit everyone at the same time. When the mining boom was on, WA, NT and Queensland were surging and NSW was close to recession. That has now been reversed, though the sunshine state is getting better faster than the other two.

F.D. Roosevelt famously said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. However, after seeing too many societal influencers from the media to politicians determined to promote themselves at the expense of the nation, I argue “The only thing we have to fear are fear mongers who won’t talk up a very good economy.”