Australia slashes rates to all-time low amid slow growth, job fears

Australia’s central bank cut interest rates for the third time this year amid fears about the flagging domestic economy. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2019

Australia slashes rates to all-time low amid slow growth, job fears

  • Australia has had 28 years of expansion without recession

SYDNEY: Australia’s central bank cut interest rates for the third time this year on Tuesday in a bid to stimulate a sluggish economy and signaled it was prepared to do more if needed, knocking the local dollar to a one-month low.

The country’s economy has expanded for 28 years without a recession, but risks have intensified over the past year, with growth slowing, inflation lukewarm, the property market subdued and unemployment ticking higher.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) quarter-point cut took the cash rate to an all-time low of just 0.75 percent, leaving little room for more reductions and raising the possibility of unconventional policy easing.

RBA chief Philip Lowe said moves by global central banks to ease monetary policy played a part in the decision as he signaled the need for an extended period of low rates.

Financial futures are now pricing in a 60 percent chance of a fourth cut to 0.5 percent in November, compared with under 30 percent before the latest decision.

Expectations that rates will be lower for longer sent the Australian dollar slipping to $0.6706, its weakest since early September.

“In cutting rates so aggressively this year, the RBA is hoping to generate a stronger labor market, higher wage growth and to stimulate domestic consumption,” said Anthony Doyle, a Sydney-based, cross-asset strategist at Fidelity.

“Fortunately for the RBA, the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is fairly quick in the Australian economy,” he said, noting around 80 percent of mortgages were on variable rates.

The RBA’s back-to-back easings in June and July have so far done little to boost activity outside of the housing market.

Indeed, figures earlier in the day showed home prices across Australia’s capital cities jumped 1.1 percent in September, but approvals to build new homes collapsed to the lowest since 2013.

Economists expect construction-related job losses in coming months which could take the unemployment rate to as high as 5.5 percent from 5.3 percent now and the RBA’s goal of around 4.5 percent.

“The RBA now has only three, or possibly even fewer, more conventional cuts available before they will have to venture into unconventional monetary easing territory — negative rates, QE (quantitative easing), or bond yield targeting,” Rob Carnell, chief Asia-Pacific economist for ING said.


Capitalism doing ‘more harm than good’ says global survey

Updated 46 min 16 sec ago

Capitalism doing ‘more harm than good’ says global survey

  • The poll contacted over 34,000 people in 28 countries

LONDON: A majority of people around the world believe capitalism in its current form is doing more harm than good, a survey found ahead of this week’s Davos meeting of business and political leaders.

This year was the first time the “Edelman Trust Barometer,” which for two decades has polled tens of thousands of people on their trust in core institutions, sought to understand how capitalism itself was viewed.

The study’s authors said that earlier surveys showing a rising sense of inequality prompted them to ask whether citizens were now starting to have more fundamental doubts about the capitalist-based democracies of the West.

“The answer is yes,” David Bersoff, lead researcher on the study produced by US communications company Edelman. “People are questioning at that level whether what we have today, and the world we live in today, is optimized for their having a good future.”

The poll contacted over 34,000 people in 28 countries, from Western democracies like the US to those based on a different model such as China or Russia, with 56 percent agreeing “capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world.”

The survey was launched in 2000 to explore the theories of political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who after the collapse of communism declared that liberal capitalist democracy had seen off rival ideologies and so represented “the end of history.”

That conclusion has since been challenged by critics who point to everything from the rising influence of China to the spread of autocratic leaders, trade protectionism and worsening inequality in the wake of the 2007/08 global financial crisis.

On a national level, lack of trust in capitalism was highest in Thailand and India on 75 percent and 74 percent respectively, with France close behind on 69 percent. Majorities prevailed in other Asian, European, Gulf, African and Latin American states.

Only in Australia, Canada, the US, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan did majorities disagree with the assertion capitalism currently did more harm than good.

FASTFACT

75%

The Edelman Trust Barometer survey found lack of trust in capitalism was highest in Thailand and India on 75 percent and 74 percent respectively.

The survey confirmed a by-now familiar set of concerns ranging from worries about the pace of technological progress and job insecurity, to distrust of the media and a sense that national governments were not up to the challenges of the day.

Within the data there were divergences, with Asians more optimistic about their economic prospects than others across the world. There was also a growing split in attitudes according to status, with the affluent and college-educated much more likely to have faith in how things were being run.

Of possible interest to corporate leaders gathering in Davos this week was the finding that trust in business outweighed that in governments and that 92 percent of employees said CEOs should speak out on the social and ethical issues of the day.

“Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government,” said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman. “It can no longer be business as usual, with an exclusive focus on shareholder returns.”