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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THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

Why don’t governments deliver policies that are good for the electorate?

Mon, 21 Aug 2017

This article first appeared on The Adelaide Review site at this link: https://adelaidereview.com.au/opinion/politics/paying-fair-share/ 

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Paying Their Fair Share

It’s the age-old question: why don’t governments deliver policies that are good for the electorate? Well, the answers are numerous.

Politics and policymaking should be simple. After all, being in government and delivering what voters want — making them happy in other words — and increasing the chances of re-election seems to be the proverbial win-win scenario.

Which begs the question, why don’t political parties do it?

Why don’t they deliver policies that are good for the electorate and good for their re-election chances?

Let’s cut to what the voters, in general, want.

A policy framework where each person who wants a job gets a job is key. In addition, access to quality and affordable health care and education, from kindergarten to university to trades training is fundamental. There are other issues that are basic, simple and fair.

Voters want the government to provide aged-care services that treat the older members of society with dignity. We want decent infrastructure, especially pubic transport and roads. We want people who are doing it tough to be supported by a welfare safety net — a decent rate of pension, unemployment benefits and disability support.

So far, so good.

Australia has given up on solving unemployment

Sun, 20 Aug 2017

This article first appeared on The New Daily website at this link: https://thenewdaily.com.au/money/finance-news/2017/08/16/stephen-koukoulas-unemployment/ 

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Australia has given up on solving unemployment

 It is a sad state of affairs to realise that the current crop of Australian policy-makers have effectively given up on reducing unemployment.

Treasury reckons that the lowest the unemployment rate can go without there being a wages and inflation breakout is around 5.25 per cent.

The Reserve Bank of Australia notes something similar, forecasting that even when the economy is growing strongly at an above-trend pace, the unemployment rate will hover between 5 and 6 per cent.
The current unemployment rate is 5.6 per cent or some 728,100 people – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground about seven times.

Given the Treasury and RBA estimates, it looks like Australia will never see fewer than about 700,000 people unemployed – no matter what kind of improvement we see in the latest jobless figures on Thursday.
It seems to be a peculiarly Australian issue. In the US, the unemployment rate is 4.3 per cent, in the UK it is 4.5 per cent, in Japan it is 2.8 per cent while in Germany, the unemployment rate is 3.9 per cent. And none of these countries is experiencing a wage/inflation problem. Indeed, even with the very low unemployment rate in Japan, wages are actually falling.