Another RBA fail as underlying inflation drops to 1.7 per cent

Thu, 01 Nov 2018  |  

The September quarter CPI confirmed annual underlying inflation easing back to 1.7 per cent, well away from the mid-point of the 2 to 3 per cent target range.

The result locked in fours years where inflation has been below the mid point of the range and two years where it has come in below the bottom of the target band.

For the RBA, this is a fail.

A fail not because of a temporary miss. The odd miss on inflation is inevitable and is fine. Shocks sometimes come along and there are periods where inflation spikes or drop temporarily.

But this is no temporary miss.

Doing nothing about two years of missing the target and then having a forecast profile that suggests there will be another couple of years where inflation remains below the mid-point of the target is a policy elitism that damages growth, employment and wages.

Sustained below target inflation is a deliberate policy outcome that has resulted from the RBA keeping interest rates too high for too long.

The RBA Governor has acknowledged this in a round about way, with a willingness to accept low inflation for the purpose of achieving financial stability, which curiously remains undefined, or at least is a moving target.

Had the RBA cut interest rates to around 0.5 per cent a few years ago, as the other credible central banks around the world did, Australia’s inflation rate would no doubt be in the band and picking up, the unemployment rate would be lower and wages would be accelerating.

Alas for Australia, the unemployment only last month dropped below 5.25% for the first time in 6 years while the unemployment rate in countries with pragmatic and consistent central banks such as the US, UK and Canada have seen unemployment rates drop to multi-decade or record lows and there are signs of a clear pick up in wages.

Let’s hope the RBA comes to its senses before too long and has a policy framework that sees it embrace its inflation target.

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THE LATEST FROM THE KOUK

Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Thu, 06 Dec 2018

This article first appeared on the Yahoo Finance web site at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/dont-fall-spin-scott-morrisons-budget-surplus-no-certainty-224422761.html 

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Don’t fall for the spin - Scott Morrison’s budget surplus is no certainty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison could yet be guilty of prematurely declaring that his government will deliver a budget surplus in 2018-19.

Sure, tax revenue is growing at a rapid pace and the government is underspending on a range of government services, but there are still seven long months to go between now and the end of the financial year that might yet blow up the surplus commitment.

PM Morrison’s ‘return to surplus’ boast is based, it appears, on hard data for the first four months of the 2018-19 financial year on revenue and spending information from the Department of Finance. These numbers do look strong, at least in terms of the budget numbers and if the trends on revenue and spending continue, the budget will probably be in surplus. Treasury will be factoring in ongoing economic growth, no increase in the unemployment rate and buoyant iron ore and coal prices over the remainder of the financial year. These forecasts and hence the budget bottom line are subject to a good deal of uncertainty, as they are every year.

If, as is distinctly possible, the economy stalls in the March and June quarters 2019, commodity prices continue to weaken and if there are some unexpected increases in government spending, the current erroneous forecasts for revenue and spending could leave the budget in deficit.

Change of view on monetary policy

Wed, 05 Dec 2018

In the wake of the September quarter national accounts, and with accumulating information on house prices, dwelling investment, the global economy and spare capacity in the labour market, I have revised my outlook for official interest rates.

For some time, I have been expecting the RBA to cut the official cash rate to 1.0 per cent, a forecast that has been wrong (clearly) given its decision to leave rates steady right through 2018.

That said, it has been a highly profitable call with the market pricing interest rate hikes when the call was made which has yielded a decent return as time has passed.

My updated profile for RBA rates is:

May 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.25%
August 2019 – 25bp cut to 1.00%
November 2019 – 25bp cut to 0.75%

The risk is for rates to 0.5% in very late 2019 or in 2020

It will be driven by:

  • Underlying inflation remaining below 2%
  • GDP growth around 0.25 to 0.5% per quarter in 2019
  • Annual wages growth stuck at 2.5% or less
  • Global growth slowing towards 3%
  • Labour market under-utilisation around 13 to 13.5%

There are likely to be other influences, but these are the main ones.

AUD, as a result, looks set to drop to 0.6000 – 0.6500 range.