March 2016

The Labour Market during and after the Terms of Trade Boom

Australian Economy
Kathryn Davis, Martin McCarthy and Jonathan Bridges

During the terms of trade boom, strong growth in output prices meant that the real cost of labour declined from the average firm's perspective and demand for labour increased. At the same time, the appreciation of the exchange rate helped contain the increase in consumption prices, so the purchasing power of employees' earnings rose and growth in the labour force picked up. Australian employment grew strongly and the unemployment rate fell.

business, households, labour market, mining, terms of trade

Cyclical Labour Market Adjustment in Australia

Australian Economy
James Bishop and Michael Plumb

Since the late 1990s, a larger share of labour market adjustment in Australia has come about via changes in average hours worked, as opposed to changes in the number of people employed. Much of this is likely to reflect that the economic downturns in the 2000s were relatively short and shallow compared with the recessions in the 1980s and 1990s. Had these later downturns been more severe, firms may have needed to shed more workers. It is also possible that labour market reforms over recent decades have provided firms with more scope to reduce labour costs by reducing working hours and wage growth rather than by reducing headcount. Consistent with these explanations, an important driver of cyclical adjustments in average hours during downturns looks to have been reductions in hours worked for employees who remained in the same job, as opposed to changes in the composition of aggregate employment.

labour market, wages

Developments in Banks' Funding Costs and Lending Rates

Kelsey Wilkins, George Gardner and Blair Chapman

This article updates previous Reserve Bank research on how developments in the composition and pricing of banks' funding have affected their overall cost of funds and influenced lending rates. Major banks' outstanding funding costs fell notably in 2015, following two reductions in the cash rate. The spread between the major banks' outstanding funding costs and the cash rate also narrowed over 2015. This was due to lower costs of deposits and a more favourable mix of deposit funding, as well as lower wholesale funding costs. Lending rates declined in the first half of 2015, reflecting changes in the cash rate and competition for lending, before lending rates increased for housing in the second half of the year; business lending rates are at historically low levels.

banking, capital, funding

The ATM System since the 2009 Reforms

Darren Flood and Stephen Mitchell

The past seven years have seen two major forces affecting the ATM system. Reforms to pricing arrangements in 2009 have had a number of effects, including establishing an environment that has encouraged a rise in ATM numbers. More recently, the ATM industry has been affected by a shift in consumer preferences towards payment cards, which has seen a decline in cash use and a resulting fall in the demand for ATM services. This article examines how activity and pricing in the ATM system have evolved since 2009. It finds that while ATM transactions are declining, ATM numbers at this stage continue to increase overall. ATM direct charges have risen slightly in real terms, but the number of withdrawals on which a fee is charged has fallen significantly.

money, payments, regulation

The Australian Government Guarantee Scheme:

Financial Stability
Carl Schwartz and Nicholas Tan

The Australian Government Guarantee Scheme for Large Deposits and Wholesale Funding (the Guarantee Scheme or scheme) was introduced during the global financial crisis in response to similar measures taken in other countries, and to address extreme funding pressures on authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs). The scheme closed to new borrowings in early 2010 and the guarantee over the few remaining liabilities ended in late 2015. This article recaps the operation of the scheme and concludes that it successfully met its objective to promote financial stability and the flow of credit to the economy during a period of extreme global funding pressures. No claims against the government were made under the scheme and the fees paid for its use generated $4½ billion in revenue.

financial markets, financial stability, funding, regulation

The Rise in Dividend Payments

Australian Economy
Michelle Bergmann

Dividends paid by Australian listed companies have grown substantially since the global financial crisis, most notably among large resources companies and the banks. These increases have occurred alongside modest growth in earnings. Dividend-paying companies appear to generally smooth these payments, having been reluctant to reduce their dividend payments in particular. The increase in dividends over recent years could reflect an increase in shareholder preferences to receive income payments or a perception among company managers that there are fewer viable investment opportunities; the data offer some modest support to both of these hypotheses.

banking, finance, securities

The Term Structure of Commodity Risk Premiums and the Role of Hedging

Global Economy
Jonathan Hambur and Nick Stenner

A standard theory used to explain commodity futures prices decomposes the futures price into the expected spot price at maturity of the futures contract and a risk premium. This article investigates the term structure of commodity risk premiums. We find that risk premiums vary across futures contract maturities, and that the term structure of commodity risk premiums differs between commodities. Furthermore, the risk premiums on crude oil and heating oil have fallen since the mid 2000s, consistent with increased financial investment in these futures markets. This article also outlines evidence to suggest that the existence of a commodity risk premium is related to the hedging activities of market participants.

commodities, financial markets, risk and uncertainty

The graphs in the Bulletin were generated using Mathematica.

ISSN 0725–0320 (Print)
ISSN 1837-7211 (Online)