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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Inflation is low and remains low

Thu, 27 Apr 2017

This article first appeared on the Yahoo7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/inflation-020818312.html 

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Inflation is low and remains low

Inflation edged up a little in the March quarter – from an annual rate of 1.5 per cent at the end of 2016, the headline rate rose to 2.1 per cent. The underlying rate of inflation, which the RBA trends to place more weight on when it comes to assessments of interest rate policy, was even more muted, lifting from 1.5 per cent to 1.8 per cent.

And recall, the RBA target range for inflation is between 2 and 3 per cent.

Annual underlying inflation has been at or below 2 per cent since late 2015, and has been below 2.5 per cent, the midpoint of the inflation target, since the end of 2014. That is a long time.

The data today confirm that inflation is low and remains low and in isolation, continues to give the RBA plenty of scope to further reduce interest rates. When the recent data on unemployment, building approvals, private sector business investment and wages growth are added to the mix, the case for an interest rate cut is strong.

The Australian budget is likely to confirm this is a big-spending, big-taxing government

Thu, 20 Apr 2017

This article first appeared on The Guardian website at this link: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/apr/19/the-australian-budget-is-likely-to-confirm-this-is-a-big-spending-big-taxing-government 

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The Australian budget is likely to confirm this is a big-spending, big-taxing government

While much of the focus of the upcoming federal budget will, quite rightly, be policy issues associated with housing affordability, areas of changes to spending and revenue, there will also be an opportunity to analyse the underlying values of the government.

This will be the fourth budget of the current Coalition government and will show us the ‘big picture’ of government policies and priorities. There will be data on aggregate government spending, taxation receipts, gross and net government debt and the budget deficit.

The most accurate way to analyse the trends in the key budget figures will be to assess them as a ratio of GDP. Government spending, for example, totalled $48.8bn in 1982-83 and this rose to $423.3bn in 2015-16, which is, at face value, an enormous increase. But spending actually fell from 25.8% of GDP in 1982-83 to 25.6% of GDP in 2015-16. It is a similar issue with government debt, the budget deficit and other benchmarks.

Based on the performance of the economy since the last fiscal update in December 2016, the budget is likely to confirm that this is a big-spending, big-taxing government with a strategy for continuing budget deficits and rising debt as it funds some of its pet projects.

It is all but certain that government debt will remain above 25% of GDP in 2017-18 and the forward estimates, meaning the government will be the first in the last 50 years to have spending at more than a quarter of GDP for eight straight years.