Perhaps the most important part of new Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe’s first monetary policy statement (he left the cashrate at 1.5%) concerns jobs.
The second concerns the Australian housing market and the third, mining.
On jobs, Mr Lowe said: “Part-time employment has been growing strongly, while growth in full-time employment has been subdued. The forward-looking indicators point to continued expansion in employment in the near term.”
He said the unemployment rate had fallen further, although employment growth across the country varied considerably.
Concern has been raised recently at the volume of apartment supply in Melbourne & Sydney. Mr Lowe noted the supply but didn’t comment further on it. However, he did comment on changes in behaviour in the banking sector: “Supervisory measures have strengthened lending standards in the housing market. Separately, a number of lenders are also taking a more cautious attitude to lending in certain segments. Growth in lending for housing has slowed over the past year. Turnover in the housing market has declined. The rate of increase in housing prices is lower than it was a year ago, although some markets have strengthened recently. Considerable supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years, particularly in the eastern capital cities. Growth in rents is the slowest for some decades.”
Australia’s economy has been bolstered by mining for decades, declining only at the end of the 1960s (and that for only a short time) and since the global financial crisis started to take effect in 2008. Mr Lowe was positive about the alternatives: “In Australia, the economy is continuing to grow at a moderate rate. The large decline in mining investment is being offset by growth in other areas, including residential construction, public demand & exports. Household consumption has been growing at a reasonable pace, but appears to have slowed a little recently. Measures of household & business sentiment remain above average.
“Inflation remains quite low. Given very subdued growth in labour costs and very low cost pressures elsewhere in the world, this is expected to remain the case for some time.
“Low interest rates have been supporting domestic demand, and the lower exchange rate since 2013 has been helping the traded sector. Financial institutions are in a position to lend for worthwhile purposes. These factors are all assisting the economy to make the necessary economic adjustments, though an appreciating exchange rate could complicate this.”
Overall, internationally, he said: “The global economy is continuing to grow, at a lower than average pace. Labour market conditions in the advanced economies have improved over the past year, but growth in global industrial production & trade remains subdued. Actions by Chinese policymakers have been supporting growth, but the underlying pace of growth in China has been moderating. Inflation remains below most central banks’ targets.
“Commodity prices have risen over recent months, following the very substantial declines over the past few years. The higher commodity prices have supported a rise in Australia’s terms of trade, although they remain much lower than they have been in recent years.
“Financial markets have continued to function effectively. Funding costs for high quality borrowers remain low and, globally, monetary policy remains remarkably accommodative. Government bond yields are near their historical lows.”
Attribution: Bank release.