September 2020

Finance
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Managing the Risks of Holding Self-securitisations as Collateral

Duke Cole and Calebe de Roure

Self-securitisations are structured pools of assets, such as residential mortgages, created by banks specifically to use as collateral to access liquidity from the Reserve Bank. The ability of banks to transform illiquid mortgages into liquid assets improves overall liquidity in the financial system. Some financial risks the Reserve Bank faces by holding self-securitisations as collateral differ from other collateral assets (such as government and corporate securities). Unlike these assets, self-securitisations are not currently traded on any public market, and the risks of the self-securitisation are related to the risks of the bank using it as collateral. The Reserve Bank applies a series of additional controls to self-securitisations accepted as collateral to protect against potential financial losses.

financial markets, securitisation, mortgages
Finance
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Government Bond Market Functioning and COVID-19

Richard Finlay, Claudia Seibold and Michelle Xiang

The market for Australian Government Securities is a critical fixed income market in Australia, including because it serves as a pricing benchmark for many other interest rates in the economy. The extreme economic and financial uncertainty caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to this market becoming dysfunctional, with investors unable to transact in reasonable size. In response to the pandemic, on 19 March 2020 the Reserve Bank announced a number of new policy measures, which, among other things, have been successful in restoring the functioning of government bond markets. This article discusses various measures of market functioning, their deterioration, and subsequent improvement.

bonds, financial markets, market operations, pandemic
Australian Economy
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The Economic Effects of Low Interest Rates and Unconventional Monetary Policy

Rochelle Guttmann, Dana Lawson and Peter Rickards

The cash rate is currently at its effective lower bound and the Reserve Bank has put in place a suite of alternative monetary policy tools. This article uses the Bank’s macroeconometric model of the Australian economy, MARTIN, to analyse the implications of a constrained cash rate and illustrate how unconventional monetary policies can support the Australian economy. By lowering interest rates that are typically affected indirectly through changes in the cash rate, unconventional policies can stimulate economic activity through many of the same channels as conventional monetary policy.

cash rate, pandemic, martin, modelling, monetary policy
Payments
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Retail Central Bank Digital Currency: Design Considerations, Rationales and Implications

Tony Richards, Chris Thompson and Cameron Dark

There has recently been increasing international focus on the possible issuance of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), or what might be considered a digital equivalent of banknotes. While the technical feasibility of such a new form of money is not yet established, this paper considers some issues around its possible design, the possible rationales for issuance, and the implications of issuance. Given the likely benefits and risks, at present there does not seem to be a strong public policy case for issuance in Australia. Nonetheless, it will be important to closely watch the experience of other jurisdictions that are considering implementing CBDC projects.

cryptocurrency, currency, money, payments, technology
Finance
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Insights from the New Economic and Financial Statistics Collection

Megan Garner

The Reserve Bank has worked with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to modernise and expand data collected from Australia’s financial sector. This article discusses some of the insights from the data, known as the Economic and Financial Statistics (EFS). The EFS collection has been used to monitor developments in the provision of finance to the Australian economy since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, new data on housing interest rates shows that there has been a decline in these rates alongside the package of measures implemented by the Reserve Bank in March this year.

banking, business, credit, households, interest rates, pandemic, statistics
Finance
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The COVID-19 Outbreak and Access to Small Business Finance

Michelle Lewis and Qiang Liu

The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the business sector. Overall, small businesses have been disproportionately affected because they are more likely to be in industries that have been harder hit by the pandemic. Demand for new loans appears to be weak, probably because businesses are reluctant to take on debt given heightened uncertainty about the economic outlook. The various short-term initiatives to support businesses’ cash flows are also likely to have dampened the immediate demand for credit. At the same time, access to finance continues to be a challenge for small businesses. Banks have tightened their lending practices in recent years and are more cautious about lending to businesses that have been significantly affected by the pandemic.

business, credit, finance, pandemic
Payments
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Modernising Payments Messaging: The ISO 20022 Standard

Tarnia Major and Joseph Mangano

Electronic payments rely on the exchange of messages to instruct the flow of funds between financial institutions. The quality of payment messaging data is important as it determines what payment information is received by financial institutions and their customers. Worldwide, there is movement to develop new payment systems using the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 20022 messaging standard, and to migrate some existing systems to the standard. In Australia, an industry-led project to migrate the High Value Payments System to ISO 20022 commenced this year. This will provide a number of benefits, including improved transfer of payment information to beneficiaries, better fraud and financial crime management for payments service providers and greater opportunities for straight-through processing.

banking, data, payments, technology
Australian Economy
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The Rental Market and COVID-19

Richard Evans, Tom Rosewall and Aaron Wong

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented shock to the rental housing market, reducing demand for rental properties at the same time as supply has increased. Households most affected by the economic impact are more likely to be renters, and border closures have reduced international arrivals. The number of vacant rental properties has increased as new dwellings have been completed and some landlords have offered short-term rentals on the long-term market, particularly in inner Sydney and Melbourne. Government policies have supported renters and landlords. Rents have declined, partly because of discounts on existing rental agreements and it is likely that rent growth in many areas will remain subdued over coming years.

housing, pandemic
Australian Economy
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Labour Market Persistence from Recessions

Iris Day and Keaton Jenner

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid deterioration in labour market outcomes, some of which may be long-lasting. This article examines the long-lived effects of previous downturns on unemployment in Australia, including by assessing how regional labour market outcomes varied during and after the GFC and early 1990s recession. We find that recessions have enduring effects on unemployment rates: regions that experienced larger-than-average downturns had significantly higher unemployment rates for around a decade afterwards.

labour market, pandemic
Global Economy
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Private Sector Financial Conditions in China

Matthew Bunny

Historically it has been challenging to assess financial conditions for private firms in China. This article assembles a range of indicators that shows private firms find it more difficult and expensive to access financing than state-owned firms. Based on these indicators, the private sector had experienced a tightening in financial conditions over the past few years, although more recently conditions have generally eased as a result of new measures that direct more credit to private firms.

business, china, credit, finance
Global Economy
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The Global Financial Safety Net and Australia

Meika Ball, Ashwin Clarke and Clare Noone

The Global Financial Safety Net (GFSN) allows for financial assistance to be provided to economies in the event of an economic or financial crisis. Together with the substantial monetary and fiscal policy response globally, the GFSN has played a key role in helping economies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The GFSN has a number of elements, including the assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund, regional financing arrangements and some bilateral swap lines established by central banks. This article provides an overview of the GFSN, how it has evolved and been used over recent months, and the role the Reserve Bank of Australia plays in it. Use of the GFSN could increase materially over the period ahead if economic and financial market conditions around the world deteriorate.

financial stability, international, pandemic
Global Economy
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Different Approaches to Implementing a Countercyclical Capital Buffer

Katarina Stojkov

The countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB) was one of the measures designed to improve the resilience of the global banking system following the global financial crisis (GFC). It is a bank capital buffer that can be raised or lowered by jurisdictions depending on the level of risk in the financial system. This article describes different approaches to implementing the CCyB. Most jurisdictions set the ‘default’ CCyB rate at zero until risks are elevated; however, recently, several have adopted frameworks where the CCyB is positive through most of the financial cycle. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has recently announced that it is also considering moving to a non-zero (positive) default CCyB (APRA 2019). This article discusses the possible benefits of a positive default CCyB.

banking, capital, financial stability, international, pandemic

June 2020

Finance A bush fire burns through shrub land.
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Transactional Banking at the RBA in Extraordinary Times

Talina Leung

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is the banker to the Commonwealth of Australia, supporting the Australian Government in its daily banking needs. During extraordinary times, such as the bushfires of the 2019/20 summer season or the current COVID-19 pandemic, demands on banking services are heightened as additional payments are made to Australians who require funds immediately. By modernising its products and service offerings and the underlying technology, the RBA has ensured payment and banking systems are fit to perform these tasks securely and reliably. In the past, additional payments during extraordinary times required additional effort and at times unconventional means. Today, government payments can be made seamlessly, even during crisis situations, ensuring funds are received without unnecessary delays.

banking, payments, npp, technology, pandemic
Global Economy Bank employees are wearing face masks during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Photo: Reserve Bank of Australia – PN-006877

Economic Effects of the Spanish Flu

James Bishop

The Spanish flu reached Australia in 1919 and remains the country’s most severe pandemic in terms of health outcomes. At the peak of the pandemic, sickness due to influenza temporarily incapacitated 2 per cent of the labour force. However, despite the social distancing measures used by governments to contain the virus, few job losses in this period were due to a lack of available work. The labour market also recovered quickly, but it is not clear how relevant this experience is for the modern economy.

labour market, consumption, pandemic
Australian Economy A collage of newspaper headline clippings related to economic topics.
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News Sentiment and the Economy

Kim Nguyen and Gianni La Cava

The large and immediate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic activity has increased the need for more real-time indicators of the economy. This article discusses a new indicator of `news sentiment’, which uses a combination of text analysis, machine learning and newspaper articles. The news sentiment index complements other timely economic indicators and has the advantage of potentially being updated on a daily basis. The news sentiment index captures key macroeconomic events, such as economic downturns, and typically moves ahead of survey-based measures of sentiment. Related indicators, such as the news uncertainty index, similarly help to better understand real-time developments in the Australian economy.

technology, data analytics
Australian Economy An older male employee sits at a table talking to his younger colleagues.
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Why Study (or Not Study) Economics? A Survey of High School Students

Tanya Livermore and Mike Major

There has been a stark decline in the size and diversity of the Year 12 Economics student population since the early 1990s. The Reserve Bank has commissioned a comprehensive survey of students to gain quantitative evidence of the factors contributing to this decline. The survey responses highlight that while economics in general is perceived to be important for society, many students lack an interest in, or understanding of, Economics as a subject. This finding is even more pronounced for students who are female, those from a lower socio-economic background and those from regional schools.

educators and students, rba survey
Payments A roll of Australian 50 dollar notes and some coins.
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Bank Fees in Australia

Stephanie Crews and Michelle Lewis

The Reserve Bank’s 23rd annual bank fees survey shows that, overall, banks’ income from fees declined in 2019. Fee income from households decreased, largely driven by lower fees from deposit accounts. A number of reforms related to merchant services contributed to banks’ fee income from businesses growing at a slower pace than in recent years.

banking, fees, atm, rba survey
Payments The hands of an older woman holding a few 50 dollar notes.
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Cash Use in Australia: Results from the 2019 Consumer Payments Survey

Luc Delaney, Nina McClure and Richard Finlay

The Bank’s 2019 Consumer Payments Survey (CPS) suggests that the use of cash for transactions has continued to fall alongside growing use of electronic payment methods. Despite this, a substantial share of consumers still use cash intensively, with this share having reduced only a little over recent years. These high cash users are more likely to be older, have lower household income, live in regional areas, and/or have limited internet access. The survey suggests that around one-quarter of consumers would face major inconvenience or genuine hardship if they could no longer use cash, although most respondents stated that their current access to cash was convenient. The survey was conducted before the emergence of COVID-19 and the associated social distancing measures, however, and so did not capture any change in behaviour that may have resulted from this.

payments, rba survey, data analytics, money
Australian Economy A collection of old and new mobile phones.
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Quality Change and Inflation Measurement

Stephanie Parsons

Households’ perceptions of inflation can differ from inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). One factor that may contribute to this difference is that the CPI seeks to take into account changes in the quality of many items that households buy. Around 2–3 per cent of the CPI basket is adjusted for quality change each quarter, with the prices of consumer durables most affected. While a range of methods have been developed to help statisticians identify and quantify quality change, it remains a challenging area of price measurement.

inflation, consumption, prices, data analytics
Australian Economy The hand of a woman inserts a coin into a piggy bank.
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Household Wealth prior to COVID-19: Evidence from the 2018 HILDA Survey

Nicole Adams, Cara Holland, Gabrielle Penrose and Lorenzo Schofer

This article examines the distribution of wealth in Australia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and considers the implications for the financial resilience of households during the associated economic downturn. In terms of their wealth, most Australian households appear well placed to withstand a temporary fall in income. However, younger households and those working in industries most affected by activity restrictions are likely to be more vulnerable to income loss; only around half of these households could cover three months of expenses out of their liquid assets. Highly indebted households that experience shocks to their income and have limited liquid assets will also find this period particularly challenging. Policies to support household income, as well as those aimed at rescheduling debt repayments, should cushion these effects. The resilience of households will also depend on the timing and sustainability of the economic recovery.

wealth, data analytics, households, debt, pandemic
Global Economy An aerial view of motorways and skyscrapers in a residential area in Beijing, China.
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China's Residential Property Sector

Jonathan Kemp, Anirudh Suthakar and Tom Williams

The property sector is a significant driver of economic growth in China and a key source of demand for Australian commodity exports. Authorities have become increasingly wary of financial risks in the sector, and moved to reduce the importance of policies directed at real estate for managing short-run fluctuations in aggregate demand. The effect of COVID-19 on property sales and developer balance sheets necessitated a moderate easing of policy to support the real estate sector, but it only appears to have delayed rather than halted efforts to de-risk the sector.

china, housing, investment, prices, pandemic

March 2020

Payments Dollar signs emerge from a mobile phone held in a hand.
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Two Years of Fast Payments in Australia

Emilie Fitzgerald and Alexandra Rush

It has been two years since the public launch of the New Payments Platform (NPP) and the Fast Settlement Service (FSS). Together, the NPP and FSS now enable customers of more than 90 financial institutions to make fast payments 24 hours a day, every day of the week (‘24/7’). Customers can send detailed information with a payment and nominate the payment recipient in a simple way. While the rollout of the NPP has been gradual, usage grew rapidly over the second half of 2019 and compares favourably with other successful fast payment systems introduced overseas. With a range of new functionality under development, the NPP and FSS are well placed to deliver innovative new payment services to support the Australian economy into the future.

payments, NPP, technology
Payments A mobile phone with a blurred screen of transactions.
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Consumer Payment Behaviour in Australia

James Caddy, Luc Delaney, Chay Fisher and Clare Noone

The Reserve Bank’s 2019 Consumer Payments Survey has provided further evidence that Australian consumers are increasingly preferring to use electronic payment methods. Many people now tap their cards, or sometimes phones, for small purchases rather than paying in cash. Consumers also have an increasing range of options available for making everyday payments. Despite this, cash still accounts for a significant share of lower-value payments and a material proportion of the population continues to make many of their payments in cash.

payments, rba survey, data analytics, money
Payments A customer holds their credit card above an eftpos reader.
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The Cost of Card Payments for Merchants

Kateryna Occhiutto

Data on merchants’ costs of accepting card payments show large differences in payment costs across both merchants and card systems. Smaller businesses typically face higher payment costs than larger businesses, credit card transactions are generally more expensive that debit cards, and debit card transactions tend to be more costly for most merchants when processed through the international card schemes compared with the domestic debit scheme. Overall costs of accepting card payments have nevertheless declined over the past decade, following the implementation of various reforms by the Bank.

payments, fees, retail
Finance Outlines of skyscrapers and images of charts mirror on glass facades.
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Developments in Banks' Funding Costs and Lending Rates

Susan Black, Dmitry Titkov and Lydia Wang

Banks’ funding costs declined over 2019, driven by reductions in the cash rate. Lenders passed most of the decrease in funding costs through to interest rates on mortgages and business loans. Funding costs and lending rates are at historical lows.

funding composition, banking, finance, bonds
Australian Economy The sun rises behind windmills and solar panels.
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Renewable Energy Investment in Australia

Timoth de Atholia, Gordon Flannigan and Sharon Lai

Renewable energy investment has increased significantly in Australia over recent years, contributing to a continuing shift in the energy generation mix away from traditional fossil fuel sources. Current estimates suggest that investment in renewable energy has moderated from its recent peak and is likely to decline further over the next year or two. In the longer term, the transition towards renewable energy is expected to continue. Significant coal-fired generation capacity will be retired over coming decades and is likely to be replaced mainly by distributed energy resources and large-scale renewable energy generators, supported by energy storage.

investment, non-mining
Finance Detail of an old stone building's ornament.
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The Road to Australian Dollar Funding

Elliott James and Christian Vallence

A key feature of Australia’s financial system is that nearly all liabilities are denominated in, or hedged into, Australian dollars. A pre-condition for this state of affairs is that investors are willing to hold Australian dollar-denominated assets. Investor confidence in Australian dollar assets is supported by Australia’s sound institutional framework, history of positive macroeconomic outcomes, and well-functioning financial system. Australia’s journey to funding in its own currency spanned nearly a century and involved various costs. Today, these funding arrangements confer substantial benefits to the Australian economy, including by reinforcing the same positive economic, financial and institutional outcomes that made Australian dollar funding possible in the first place.

finance, currency, forex, bonds
Australian Economy The detail of a map showing the Australian continent.
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Regional Variation in Economic Conditions 

Fiona Price

Differences in economic conditions between capital cities and regional areas have widened since the early 2000s. Some regional areas, particularly outer regional and remote areas, have faced considerable structural changes and have taken longer than other regions to adapt to these developments. Most regional labour markets appear to have adjusted quite well to the differences in regional economic conditions, though the adjustment process may have been more difficult for some regions.

monetary policy, labour market, mining, technology, capital
Australian Economy Family members spanning three generations gather outside.
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Demographic Trends, Household Finances and Spending

Tomas Cokis and Kate McLoughlin

The share of the population in their peak earning and spending years (ages 35–54) has decreased over the past decade, while the share aged 65 and above has increased. Demographic change has tended to reduce aggregate growth in household income and consumption, but by less than what previous patterns of household spending would suggest. This is because older households have earned and consumed more than in the past, and they have become wealthier. By contrast, growth in spending by younger households has been subdued, consistent with their weak income growth. The different earning and spending behaviour of households across different age groups will continue to affect trends in aggregate household consumption and income as the population ages further.

consumption, wealth, finance, debt

The graphs in the Bulletin were generated using Mathematica.

ISSN 1837-7211 (Online)