Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Stephen Kirchner, Program Director, Trade and Investment, United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is making an explicit trade-off between inflation and financial stability concerns. And this could be weighing on Australians’ wages.

In the past, the RBA focused more on keeping inflation in check, the usual role of the central bank. But now the bank is playing more into concerns about financial stability risks in explaining why it is persistently undershooting the middle of its inflation target.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, the federal Treasurer and Reserve Bank governor signed an updated agreement on what the bank should focus on in setting interest rates. This included a new section on financial stability.

That statement made clear that financial stability was to be pursued without compromising the RBA’s traditional focus on inflation.

Read more: Why the RBA needs to talk about future interest-rate policy

The latest agreement, adopted when Philip Lowe became governor of the bank in 2016, means the bank can pursue the financial stability objective even at the expense of the inflation target, at least in the short-term.

While the RBA board has explained its recent steady interest rate decisions partly on the basis of risks to financial stability, this sits uneasily with what the RBA otherwise has to say about underlying fundamentals of our economy.

It correctly blames trends in house prices and household debt on a lack of supply of housing, and not on excessive borrowing. These supply restrictions amplify the response of house prices to changes in demand for housing. RBA research estimates that zoning alone adds 73% to the marginal cost of houses in Sydney.

Restrictions on lending growth by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority since the end of 2014 have been designed to give housing supply a chance to catch-up with demand and to maintain the resilience of households against future shocks.

The RBA argues that it needs to balance financial stability risks against the need to stimulate the economy through lower interest rates. But this has left inflation running below the middle of its target range and helps explain why wages growth has been weak.

Read more: Why New Zealand can't outsource employment policy to its central bank

The official cash rate has been left unchanged since August 2016, the longest period of steady policy rates on record. The fact that inflation has undershot its target of 2-3% is the most straightforward evidence that monetary policy has been too restrictive.

While long-term interest rates in the US continue to rise, reflecting expectations for stronger economic growth and higher inflation, Australia’s long-term interest rates have languished.

Australian long-term interest rates are below those in the US by the largest margin since the early 1980s. This implies the Australian economy is expected to underperform that of the US in the years ahead.

Inflation expectations (implied by Australia’s long-term interest rates) have been stuck around 2% in recent years, below the Reserve Bank’s desired average for inflation of 2.5%.

Financial markets can be forgiven for thinking the RBA will not hit the middle of its 2-3% target range any time soon. The RBA doesn’t believe it will either, with its deputy governor Guy Debelle repeating the word “gradual” no less than 12 times in a speech when describing the outlook for inflation and wages.

Inflation has been below the midpoint of the target range since the December quarter in 2014. On the RBA’s own forecasts inflation isn’t expected to return to the middle of the target range over the next two years.

The Reserve Bank blames low inflation on slow wages growth, claiming in its most recent statement on monetary policythat “labour costs are a key driver of inflationary pressure”. But this is putting the cart before the horse.

In fact, recently published research shows that it is low inflation expectations that are largely to blame for low wages growth.

Workers and employers look at likely inflation outcomes when negotiating over wages. These expectations are in turn driven by perceptions of monetary policy.

Read more: Should banks be compelled to pass on interest rate cuts?

Below target inflation makes Australia less resilient to economic shocks, not least because it works against the objective of stabilising the household debt to income ratio. Subdued economic growth and inflation also gives the economy a weaker starting point if and when an actual shock does occur, potentially exacerbating a future downturn.

When the RBA governor and the federal treasurer renegotiate their agreement on monetary policy after the next election, the treasurer should insist on reinstating the wording of the 2010 statement that explicitly prioritised the inflation target over financial stability risks.

If the RBA continues to sacrifice its inflation target on the altar of financial stability risks, inflation expectations and wages growth will continue to languish and the economy underperform its potential.

Authors: Stephen Kirchner, Program Director, Trade and Investment, United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-rbas-shift-to-worrying-about-financial-stability-could-be-hurting-australian-wages-96714

Writers Wanted

To learn at home, kids need more than just teaching materials. Their brain must also adapt to the context

arrow_forward

Ground Preparation for Your Shipping Container

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion