Got a massive mortgage? Rest easy, for now – you could get a rate cut

Thu, 13 Apr 2017  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/got-huge-mortgage-rest-easy-now-231105702.html 

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Got a massive mortgage? Rest easy, for now – you could get a rate cut

Everyone with a large mortgage can rest assured for a while, given that an interest rate hike is unlikely in the next year and if anything, the next move in rates will be a cut.

The market has been speculating about the need for an interest rate hike as the global economy improves and for reasons linked to dealing with house prices in Sydney and Melbourne. The latter point is remarkably silly and ignores one critical factor that always feeds into RBA deliberations – unemployment.

Since December 2002, the Reserve Bank of Australia has hiked interest rates on 17 occasions. Of course, there have been a series of interest rates cuts over that time as well, but it is clear that the unemployment rate is a factor of substance that feeds into the decision to tighten monetary policy.

Those 17 interest rate increases over 15 years have occurred against a range of differing backdrops – the removal of emergency stimulus, dealing with the inflation surge from the terms of trade boom and simply managing the economy in a prudent way, with an eye on keeping the inflation rate on target at between 2 and 3 per cent.

A standout issue for the RBA over the 15 years of modern monetary policy management is that it has never hiked interest rates when the unemployment rate has been above 5.7 per cent.
This begs the question about monetary policy considerations now, with the speculation about an RBA rate hike. These views are a little strange, not just because the current unemployment rate is 5.9 per cent, but because inflation is currently below the bottom of the target band, wages growth is at a record low and bottom line GDP is still some way below trend.

Indeed, just three of the last 17 rate hikes have occurred with unemployment at 5.6 per cent or 5.7 per cent; a further four rate hikes have occurred with unemployment at 5.3 to 5.5 per cent; a further three with unemployment at 5.0 to 5.2 per cent with the remaining seven hikes delivered with an unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent or lower.

This no doubt reflects the RBA judgment that the unemployment rate associated with full employment and the risk of rising inflation is around 5 per cent. If the economy is growing strongly and the unemployment rate is on track to hit or even break below 5 per cent, inflation risks are building and with the, tighter monetary policy in the form of interest rates hikes are needed.

It is a strategy that has, on balance, worked well.

For now, there seems little chance for the unemployment rate heading to 5 per cent. On Thursday, there will be the regular monthly update on the labour force which will provide an update on employment and the unemployment rate. It needs to be a strong result for there to be any credibility in the interest rate hike forecasts. If not, it seems likely that rates will be on hold a lot longer and if there is a move in the unemployment rate to 6 per cent, or higher, the RBA and market will soon change its tune and an interest rate cut will be on the agenda.

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Employment - the odd one out or is the economy booming?

Thu, 19 Oct 2017

I am reluctant to bag and slag the employment data, because it is all we have when looking at the health of the labour market. But there are a few quirky bits and bobs in the news of the wonderful run of job creation over the past year.

Employment rose by a remarkably strong 3.1 per cent in the year to September, a fabulous result.

But, and it is a big but, the results are at odds with just about every other indicator in the economy. EIther they are misleading or the employment data are misleading.

One way to check it to have a look at the economy the last time annual growth in employment was above 3 per cent. This takes us to the period around 2007 and into early 2008.

In 2007, annual real GDP growth was generally around 4 to 5 per cent, as you would expect with such jobs growth. The economy was on fire!  In 2008, the CPI surged by over 4 per cent which is again as you would expect given the boom in employment. The RBA was hiking rates at an agressive pace, with the official cash rate hitting a stonking 7.25 per cent in 2008. Wow! 

What bubble? The financial sector is fighting fit

Tue, 17 Oct 2017

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/1897318-045821149.html 

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What bubble? The financial sector is fighting fit

Australia’s banking sector is in peak health and the household sector is having few if any problems managing its debt.

This is the good news from the Reserve Bank of Australia Financial Stability Report which effectively put the kybosh on the fear-mongers who continue to forecast a crisis in household debt, a crash in house prices and turmoil in the financial system and more specifically, the banks.

The key conclusion from the RBA was that “the financial system is in a strong position and its resilience to adverse shocks has increased over recent years.”

These are strong and direct words from the normally cautious RBA.

It also noted that the bank’s non-performing loans (bad debts in other words) “remain low” and bank profitability “is high”, which are the key indicators of financial stability and strength. The RBA went as far to say that “the banks also have ample access to a range of funding sources at a lower cost than a decade ago” which is fundamental to the functioning of the financial system. Nothing was presented that indicated current problems in the financial sector.

The RBA assessment can be tested from the markets, specifically bank share prices. Most evidently, bank share prices remain strong as the investment community continues to place its money where its mouth is when determining actual performance and even risks when allocating investment funds.