Australian punters are backing the economy with an overwhelming majority putting money on the proposition that Australia will escape recession.
As Treasurer Wayne Swan branded Centrebet "utterly irresponsible" for operating the market, the agency revealed that all but 1 of the of the 25 punters who have placed bets believe that Australia will avoid a recession next year.
"And one of those bets is big - someone's put around $900 on Australia escaping recession. Others have put up $400, $200, and others, $50 and $5," said Centrebet spokesman Neil Evans.
"But only one person so far has wagered that Australia will enter a recession, and that was a bet of $5."
It might be because of the odds Centrebet is offering...
The agency opened the market on Tuesday promising to pay only $1.12 per dollar waged that there would be a recession, and a far more generous $5.50 for each dollar successfully waged that there would not be.
"We had to take an unemotional and professional approach in setting the opening price. Without being a monumental doomsayer we think there's a much bigger chance that Australia will go into recession than avoid it."
Early betting has shifted the odds. The Alice Springs-based bookmaker was last night offering to pay a higher $1.20 for successful bets that Australia would fall into recession and a more modest $4.20 to punters who believed it would not.
Asked whether he agreed with Centrebet, the Treasurer replied that he did not and added that, "that sort of talk is utterly irresponsible".
"We are doing everything we possibly can to strengthen our economy and to protect jobs. That sort of speculation, I think, is utterly irresponsible," he said
The Melbourne Institute's leading index slid further yesterday to annual growth rate of just 0.6 per cent, implying that Australia will skate very close to recession. Earlier the US Fed slashed its funds rate to close to zero, adopting a formal target of somewhere between zero and 0.25 percentage points, the lowest level on record, promising to "employ all available tools" to restart growth.
China reported a massive slump in its imports, turning what had been an annual increase of 17 per cent into an annual slide of almost 18 per cent.
"After posting positive double digit growth rates over the entire year, the latest reading is beyond comprehension," said CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian. "This does not bode well for the global economy."
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations reported that skilled job vacancies slumped by seasonally-adjusted 15.9 per cent in December, their biggest slide since the early 1990s recession.
Centrebet spokesman Neil Evans said the market on whether there would be a recession had been approved by the Northern Territory Racing and Gaming Authority, as had its markets on Reserve Bank decisions.
If the Treasurer wanted to ask Centrebet to stop, it would listen to what he had to say.
"We don't have a complete head-in-the-sand attitude. If Mr Swan wan'ts to discuss anything, we will discuss it with him for sure," he said.