The visible hand in economics

Archive for the ‘Australian economics’ Category

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut 100 basis points last night taking the cash rate to 4.25% – well into easing territory.

A feeling that global commodity prices were in for a sustained lower period was a driving force behind this stimulus.  Surprisingly the Reserve Bank of Australia did not mention to enormous decline in fuel prices – however, there suggestion that the terms of trade would fall markedly implicitly suggests that the decline in petrol prices will be dominated by other factors.

What does this mean for New Zealand – a rule of thumb stemming from cuts so far (Aussie cut + 25) would suggest 125bp.  100 is still conceivable, as is 150.  My pick of 75 now seems incredibly unlikely.  Note, further discussion of the decision occurs in the comments of this post 🙂

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Apparently the Aussies are blaming Fonterra’s Global Dairytrade online auction platform for lowering the price of milk.

Interesting. If the auction is simply reflecting the true value of milk then the I feel no sympathy. This quote from the manager of the auction system sums up it’s purpose

Fonterra’s global trade managing director Kelvin Wickham said the auction was all about “the international market getting a transparent price” and all global dairytrade was doing was “making it more transparent more quickly”.

As an economist that is music to my ears. On the other hand here’s the quote from the Aussies

“Given things are bleak with the economic outlook, people are holding back on purchasing to see what happens with the auction,” Ms Bills said.

“Mostly, the price doesn’t recover. It is fine to want to have a transparent price system, but why not open at the closing price? If you put a price out there for something in an auction, people see it as a reserve.

“Buyers are waiting to see the price from the auction before they make their purchase.”

So basically they want the auction setup so that it props up the price of milk, can’t say I really have much sympathy for that view….

Following today’s terrible house price figures (I don’t have to see them to know they would be bad 😛 ) I thought it would be appropriate to go back to the comparison of NZ (and Aussie) to the US – at least for housing.

Greg Mankiw links to an article in the Wall Street Journal.  Read this:

When Australians borrow money to buy a house, they know that if they default and the mortgaged property doesn’t cover the debt, they will be responsible for the shortfall. And the lender will chase them for it. It’s a neat way of reminding Australians to borrow responsibly.

In America, where populist post-Depression laws in many states have mandated loans be nonrecourse, the opposite is true. Americans can take out a mortgage more or less as a one-way bet. If you can’t afford the repayments and can’t refinance, you just send the keys back to the bank. Borrowers wipe their hands of liability.

Surely hearing how moronic lending practices are in the US makes us all feel better about the relative outlook for our banking and housing sectors.  Although I bet to spite me that a major Aussie bank has gone bankrupt while I’ve been out of the country 😉 (again this was written on Sunday Nov 2)

100 basis points slashed by the Reserve Bank of Australia. There cash rate is now 6%. A 50 basis point cut was expected, 75 seemed possible, 100 is epic.

At the start of the recent freeze in credit markets a 75 basis point cut by the RBNZ seemed highly unlikely – but possible. Now a 75 basis point cut is looking increasingly likely – and 100 basis points also seems possible. To put this in perspective – the Bank may have felt that a 50 point cut in October was on the cards following the September cut. Financing costs have now moved up so much that it is (sort of) like the previous cut never happened – implying we need a 100 basis points of cuts just to get where the Bank was aiming, maybe 😛

Does this indicate that the economic situation for Australiasia has deteriorated rapidly – yes and no.

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Over at Anti-dismal, Paul Walker links to a paper by NZIER on New Zealand incomes relative to Australia.

In the paper, NZIER states that:

the average living standards of New Zealanders in 2007 were 24% lower than those of Australians (or equivalently, relative to living standards in New Zealand, Australia’s were
32% higher)

However, I am not convinced – not yet anyway. Here’s why:

Read the rest of this entry »

The RBA lowered the official cash rate to 7% yesterday, while GDP growth was a measly 0.3% over the June quarter. It appears likely that the RBA will cut rates again in October and further cuts following that cannot be ruled out.

Given that this is the case I am not going to comment on the fact that the majority of economists in Australia appear to be painfully dovish (excluding the insightful commentary from Dr Stephen Kirchner of course). I am instead interested in how falling Australian interest rates, and weakening Australian growth (assuming that it says weak over the coming couple of quarters) impacts on the NZ economy.

Lower interest rates in Australia will directly lower demand for Aus dollars, as our dollar likes to hang out with the Aussie dollar, this is likely to dampen demand for NZ dollars as well – weakening our currency. Think of it this way: We are a small economy that people don’t know much about, however people assume that as we are next to Aussie we must be moving in a similar way – as a result, changes in the Aussie economy and interest rates give people (perceived) information about the NZ economy (specifically given that both currencies are strongly related to movements in commodity prices).

On the straight economic growth terms, a slowing domestic Australian economy is no good for us. Looking at the latest merchandise trade figures (July) we are told that over the last 12 months, exports to Australia accounted for 23% of total exports – much larger than the second biggest destination (USA at 10%). Although this figure has become inflated with “intermediate goods” (crude oil to refineries in Australia) it still indicates that a slowdown in Aussie could hit our exports hard.

Overall, we need to keep an eye on our big neighbour to the east – big new over there will probably be big news over here as well.

The recent Sonny Bill Williams saga has brought into light the issue of salary caps in competitive sport. After fleeing the Australian NRL for French Rugby Union, SBW made the claim, among many other bizarre excuses, that the NRL’s salary cap was anti-competitive, in that it prevented players from earning their full-potential.

Does SBW have a valid point?

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