December 2018

Payments
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Payment Surcharges: Economics, Regulation and Enforcement

Cameron Dark, Chay Fisher, Kim McBey and Ed Tellez

The Reserve Bank's new rules on surcharging, which are enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), allow businesses to recover the cost of accepting different payment methods but prevent them from surcharging excessively. This article discusses the economic reasons for allowing businesses to surcharge, how the rules work to prevent excessive surcharging, the effect of these rules since their introduction, and how the ACCC enforces them.

payments, regulation, banking
Australian Economy
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Which Firms Get Credit? Evidence from Firm-level Data

Gabriela Araujo and Jonathan Hambur

To improve our understanding of how lenders assess firms' creditworthiness, this article relates the characteristics of firms to whether their applications for credit were approved. We find evidence to suggest that firms with relatively low profitability, high debt servicing burdens or limited credit histories were less likely to have their applications approved than other comparable firms. However, the decision to approve an application for credit also appears to be influenced by a range of other unmeasured factors, which possibly reflects the complexity of the approval process in practice.

debt, data analytics
Financial Markets
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Understanding Exchange Rates and Why They Are Important

Adam Hamilton

Exchange rates are important to Australia's economy because they affect trade and financial flows between Australia and other countries. They also affect how the Reserve Bank conducts monetary policy. This article outlines how exchange rates are measured, the different types of exchange rate regimes, the factors that influence the exchange rate and how changes in the exchange rate affect the economy.

currency, markets, forex
Financial Markets
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The Reserve Bank's Securitisation Dataset

Kate Fernandes and Dominic Jones

The Reserve Bank's Securitisation Dataset contains timely and detailed data on each and every one of the mortgages underlying Australian residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). This dataset allows the Bank to better analyse the structure of, and monitor developments in, the mortgage market. In order to examine how representative the dataset is of the wider mortgage market we compare the dataset to less frequent but more comprehensive data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). We find that the Securitisation Dataset provides excellent coverage of the collateral underpinning the RMBS market, and is representative of the wider Australian mortgage market across a number of dimensions. We then use these data to explore trends in mortgage interest rates.

securitisation, markets, data analytics
Global Economy
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China's Supply-side Structural Reform

John Boulter

Supply side structural reform is a key component of China's economic policy agenda. The motivation for reform is the view that the supply side of China's economy is out of balance with the demand side and requires adjustment. The reform targets the structure of production, to make it more efficient at the macro and firm level. As well as improving efficiency, firms are being pushed to make production more environmentally friendly. Promoting advanced industries and innovation in existing industries are also key features of the policy.

china
Payments
Photo: RBA

Understanding Demand for Australia's Banknotes

Max Wakefield and Richard Finlay

As the sole issuer of the nation's banknotes, the Reserve Bank knows how many banknotes it prints, issues to the public and destroys. However, much less is known about how these banknotes are used. This is particularly true for the $50 and $100 banknotes, which, by value, account for more than 90 per cent of banknotes on issue. To help address this, we describe in this article the various components of Australian cash demand and use a range of techniques to estimate how much each category contributes to total demand. Our key findings include that non-transactional demand for cash (e.g. hoarding for store-of-value purposes) has likely been the driving force of recent growth in the value of outstanding banknotes, and that a small but non-trivial portion of cash demand comes from the shadow economy.

banknotes, money
Global Economy
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Developments in Emerging South-East Asia

Max Alston, Ivailo Arsov, Matthew Bunny and Peter Rickards

A number of economies in South-East Asia have been making significant progress in their economic development. This article focuses on the largest middle-income economies in South-East Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. We examine the developments in these economies over recent decades, explore their relationship with Australia and the global economy and consider their potential to reach a significantly higher level of income. These economies have benefited from favourable demographics over recent decades although some will face pressures from ageing populations. However, there are ample opportunities to gain from further improvement in infrastructure, education and labour force participation.

emerging markets
Australian Economy
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Business Concentration and Mark-ups in the Retail Trade Sector

Jonathan Hambur and Gianni La Cava

The share of industry sales accounted for by the largest Australian businesses (or ‘business concentration’) has gradually risen since the start of this century. This increase in concentration has been mainly driven by the retail trade sector, particularly in recent years. In contrast, estimates of the ratio of retail prices to marginal cost (or ‘mark-ups’) rose over the 2000s but have declined in recent years. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the retail trade sector has become more competitive in recent times, following a period of declining competition through the 2000s.

retail
Financial Markets
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A Forward-looking Model of the Australian Dollar

Blair Chapman, Jarkko Jääskelä and Emma Smith

The exchange rate is an important mechanism that helps the economy adjust to external shocks.This article analyses the key determinants of the Australian dollar – the terms of trade and differences between interest rates in Australia and other advanced economies. It emphasises that ‘forward-looking’ measures of these determinants are important for capturing movements of the observed real exchange rate. In particular, they capture longer-term movements in the real exchange rate, including around key turning points, for instance during the global financial crisis.

modelling, currency, forex, data analytics

September 2018

Payments
Photo: Monsitj

The New Payments Platform and Fast Settlement Service

Alexandra Rush and Riaan Louw

A significant advance in the Australian payments system occurred in February 2018 with the public launch of the New Payments Platform (NPP). The NPP enables customers of financial institutions to make immediate payments 24 hours a day, every day of the week (‘24/7’). In conjunction with the development of the NPP, the Reserve Bank developed new infrastructure, the Fast Settlement Service (FSS), which provides for settlement of NPP transactions between financial institutions on a 24/7 basis across their Exchange Settlement Accounts (ESAs) at the Reserve Bank. These new systems have brought fast payment services to Australians in line with similar initiatives that have been undertaken or are underway internationally. The initial adoption of the NPP has been gradual, reflecting the staged introduction of services by financial institutions, as well as the time taken for customers to assess and adjust to the new services being offered.

npp, payments, technology
Australian Economy
Photo: Hero Images

Access to Small Business Finance

Ellis Connolly and Joel Bank

The Reserve Bank has conducted additional outreach this year to hear a broad range of perspectives on small business finance. Many small businesses looking to grow still find it challenging to access finance, particularly without providing real estate as security. Lenders highlight that they are keen to lend to small businesses, but that unsecured finance involves more risk. This article considers these issues and outlines some initiatives market participants have suggested that could help to improve access to finance for small businesses.

business, credit, start-ups
Education
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Does It Pay to Study Economics?

James Bishop and Rochelle Guttmann

Economics graduates work in a broad range of occupations and industries, often beyond the discipline of economics itself. The earnings of economics graduates are higher than in most other fields of study, including business studies. By estimating wage premiums for various skills, we assert that the comparatively strong earnings of economics graduates comes from the development of analytical thinking and quantitative skills which are highly rewarded in the labour market.

wages, education
Australian Economy
Photo: Sarote Pruksachat

The Effect of Minimum Wage Increases on Wages, Hours Worked and Job Loss

James Bishop

Australia has a detailed system of ‘awards’ that specify different minimum wages depending on the industry, location and skill of an employee. I find that legislated adjustments to award wages in Australia between 1998 and 2008 were almost fully passed on to wages in award-reliant jobs. There is no evidence that modest, incremental increases in award wages had an adverse effect on hours worked or the job destruction rate.

wages, employment
Financial Markets
Photo: Image Source

Money in the Australian Economy

Emma Doherty, Ben Jackman and Emily Perry

Money forms part of our everyday lives and is integral to the smooth functioning of the financial system and the real economy; however, discussions of what money is and how it is created are generally left to economics textbooks. This article provides an introduction to the concept of money and describes how it is created and measured. We also discuss what these measures can tell us about economic activity.

credit, banknotes, money
Australian Economy
Photo: Ipopba

Firm-level Insights into IT Use

Sharon Lai, Emily Poole and Tom Rosewall

Firms in Australia have used advances in information and communication technology (IT) to become more productive, reduce costs, and improve their understanding of customers. The rate at which new technology has been adopted by firms differs greatly, as do the benefits from using IT. The way firms are using IT can help to explain trends in the broader economy. Firms' expenditure on computer software has grown faster than other forms of investment. The adoption of new technology is also changing the composition of jobs in the economy.

technology, business, employment, automation
Australian Economy
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The Cyclical Behaviour of Labour Force Participation

Richard Evans, Angus Moore and Daniel Rees

When economic conditions improve, more people enter the labour force. Understanding the nature of this cyclical relationship between participation and economic activity is important for determining the amount of slack in the labour market and predicting how the economy will respond to changes in economic conditions. The participation rates of young people, 25–54-year-old females and older males are the most responsive to changes in economic conditions. If the participation rate did not adjust, expansions would be more inflationary, while recessions would be more disinflationary and lead to larger increases in involuntary unemployment.

wages, employment, inflation
Financial Stability
Photo: Kenishirotie

Financial Stability Risks and Retailing

Gabriela Araujo and Timoth de Atholia

Discretionary goods retailers are facing a challenging environment of increased competition, slow growth in consumer spending and changing consumer preferences. Despite this, these retailers generally appear to be in good financial health and there are many new shopping centres and refurbishments in the pipeline. Banks are active in funding these developments, and are increasing their exposure to retail commercial property, although they are reducing their exposure to retail businesses. If these new developments fail to attract sufficient customer spending, retailers may find themselves unable to pay rent to landlords who have taken on additional debt, and this could lead to losses at banks.

financial stability, retail
Financial Markets
Photo: Nikada

Interest Rate Benchmarks for the Australian Dollar

Serena Alim and Ellis Connolly

Interest rate benchmarks are widely relied upon in global financial markets. They are referenced in contracts for derivatives, loans and securities. They are also used by market participants to value financial instruments, and by investment funds as benchmarks for assessing their performance. The key interest rate benchmarks for the Australian dollar are the bank bill swap rates (BBSW) and the cash rate. This article provides an overview of these benchmarks, and the reforms that have been undertaken over recent years to make them more robust.

financial markets, financial instruments, currency
Global Economy
Photo: Thomas Ruecker

RMB Internationalisation: Where to Next?

Callan Windsor and David Halperin

China's push to make its own currency – the renminbi (RMB) – available for use by non-residents was a catalyst for important reforms. Since the RMB internationalisation policy began in 2009, not only is the RMB now in greater use internationally, capital flows more freely across China's borders, the exchange rate is more flexible and domestic interest rates are more market determined. In time, the RMB could emerge as a widely used regional currency in Asia.

currency, china, financial markets

June 2018

Australian Economy Crane over construction workers at sunny construction site
Photo: Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline – Getty Images

Private Non-mining Investment in Australia

Michelle van der Merwe, Lynne Cockerell, Mark Chambers and Jarkko Jääskelä

While mining investment has risen in importance over recent decades, the non-mining investment share of output has fallen. This article explores some of the factors that have contributed to the downward trend in the non-mining investment share over time. The article finds that the future non-mining investment share could be around 1–2 percentage points lower on average than it was in the two decades before the financial crisis.

Investment, Capex, Manufacturing, Household Services, Business Services, Technology
Australian Economy University graduates, mortar board hats
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Labour Market Outcomes for Younger People

Zoya Dhillon and Natasha Cassidy

Monitoring developments in the labour market for younger people is important, because they make up a large share of unemployment in the economy, and because early-career labour market outcomes can affect future outcomes. This article outlines the demand and supply factors that have affected 15–24 year old workers in Australia. In particular, we analyse the factors affecting their participation in the labour force, such as increased education attainment. We also show how younger workers are more adversely affected than the rest of the population when economic conditions slow. Over the past decade, increases in the unemployment and underemployment rates for younger people have been over twice as large as for the overall labour market. The share of 20–24 year olds that have become disengaged from either study or work has also increased.

Employment, Wages
Global Economy Young woman wearing blue trousers with an orange suit jacket, in the foreground we can see the back of two people, a man and a woman.
Photo: sturti – Getty Images

Indicators of Labour Market Conditions in Advanced Economies

Alexandra Baker and Meika Ball

While the unemployment rate is the most widely used indicator of labour market slack, there are many other measures. This article reports on what a broad range of indicators say about conditions in the labour markets of advanced economies. We summarise the various indicators using a standard statistical technique. The summary measures show labour markets in most advanced economies are tight, although in some cases not as tight as implied by the unemployment rate. The Australian labour market has spare capacity remaining, consistent with readings from the unemployment rate. The summary measures provide additional information about wage developments for most advanced economies, above and beyond the unemployment rate, but do not fully account for the weak wages growth of recent years.

Employment, wages
Global Economy Mumbai, MH, India
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Economic Trends in India

June Ma and Ivan Roberts

The Indian economy has experienced a notable turnaround in recent years. Growth has rebounded, inflation has moderated, and the budget and trade deficits have narrowed. The Indian Government has also initiated policies and reforms aimed at encouraging investment, strengthening productivity and ensuring fiscal sustainability. Stronger growth in domestic demand has led to a recovery in India's imports, including from Australia. The recent volatility in foreign exchange markets and the recovery in oil prices pose upside risks to inflation and the current account deficit. However, India's strong long-term potential for growth, driven by demographics, urbanisation and productivity-enhancing reforms, suggests there is scope for trade between Australia and India to expand further in coming years.

India, trade
Australian Economy Image showing transmission of data.
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Banking Fees in Australia

Emily Perry and Christian Maruthiah

The Reserve Bank has conducted a survey on bank fees each year since 1997. The most recent survey suggests that banks' fee income from both households and businesses rose in 2017, due to a combination of growth in the volume of services for which fees are charged and higher unit fees on some products. Deposit fee income continued to decline relative to the value of outstanding deposits, while lending fee income as a share of assets was steady. Greater use of electronic payment methods continued to support strong growth in merchant service fee income

banking, technology, rba survey
Global Economy Image of a map with a hand in the foreground holding Fijian currency
Photo: DNY59, chameleonseye – Getty Images

Developments in Correspondent Banking in the South Pacific

Lindsay Boulton and Brett Winton

This article examines the withdrawal of global financial institutions from providing correspondent banking services to the South Pacific region and the implications for remittances. Disruptions to the flow of remittances, an important source of income to many low-income island nations, could limit local consumption and adversely affect economic stability. So far, however, remittances to the South Pacific region have continued to increase.

Banking, services sector
Global Economy Shanghai Skyline
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Trends in China's Capital Account

Madeleine McCowage

Chinese policymakers' approach to liberalising capital flows has been gradual and controlled over time, as the authorities have sought to mitigate volatility in the Chinese renminbi (RMB) and private capital flows. Direct investment flows out of China have grown, become more diversified and have increasingly been accounted for by private investors. Banking-related flows have proved more volatile and are correlated with expectations for the RMB.

China, investment
Financial Markets An image that represents a network and linkages between players in the OTC derivatives market
Photo: JulieanneBirch, AF-studio – Getty Images

The Australian OTC Derivatives Market: Insights from New Trade Repository Data

Duke Cole and Daniel Ji

Over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives have played a significant role in episodes of financial stress, including the global financial crisis. However, because these derivatives are not traded on exchanges, detailed information about them has not generally been available. Newly available trade-level data coming from trade repositories can now facilitate a closer look at these markets than was possible before. This article focusses on OTC interest rate derivatives. Central counterparties (CCPs) have become much more important, in large part because of G20 reforms to increase the central clearing of OTC derivatives. Nonetheless, Australian banks still have significant exposures to other counterparties, including foreign banks. In aggregate, Australian banks hold a variety of offsetting single-currency interest rate derivatives, and use cross-currency swaps to hedge exchange rate risks.

derivatives, interest rates, financial instruments, regulation, central clearing

March 2018

RBA A photograph of a Martin Place street sign in front of the Reserve Bank Head Office
Photo: Reserve Bank of Australia

Meet MARTIN, the RBA's New Macroeconomic Model

Tom Cusbert and Elizabeth Kendall

The Reserve Bank has begun using a new full-system macroeconomic model called MARTIN in policy analysis and forecasting. It is designed to be used as part of the Bank's existing processes for forecasting and analysis that use a range of information, models and staff assessments. MARTIN is already being used in these processes to help understand economic developments and quantify risks, and in time it will be used to extend forecasts beyond the usual two-to-three-year horizon.

martin, modelling, forecasting
Australian Economy Heavy mining equipment sits among large piles of red earth
Photo: Cuhrig – Getty Images

Mining Investment Beyond the Boom

Keaton Jenner, Aaron Walker, Cathie Close and Trent Saunders

The construction phase of Australia's mining boom is now almost complete. In this article, we use two complementary approaches to investigate what mining investment might look like look over the next decade or so. The first approach explores the long-run determinants of mining investment and its likely long-run share of GDP. We then take a bottom-up approach, focusing on the amount of investment that will be required to maintain firms' existing productive capacity; in this approach we focus on Australia's three major commodities (coal, iron ore and liquefied natural gas). The analysis suggests that mining investment will likely make up a larger share of GDP than it did before the boom, and that it will continue to play an important role in driving movements in Australia's economic activity.

mining, resources sector, investment, capex
Australian Economy A blue ribbon connects a bright light bulb to an array of cogs
Photo: Chao Fann – Getty Images

Structural Change in the Australian Economy

Rachel Adeney

The structure of the Australian economy has changed significantly over the past 50 years. Services have become an increasingly important part of the economy. Supply chains have lengthened as traditional goods-producing industries have become more specialised in their core activities and outsourced their non-core activities to the business services sector. These developments have had significant implications for the composition of employment and the skill requirements of the Australian labour force.

services sector, employment
Australian Economy A woman explains the content of a computer screen to a male colleague
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Perceptions of Job Security in Australia

James Foster and Rochelle Guttmann

A concern that low job security is constraining wage growth has been expressed in many countries. Using data on Australian households over time, this article finds that workers' perceptions of their own job security have declined in recent years. This deterioration has occurred across many job and personal characteristics. These weaker job security perceptions have provided a small drag on wage growth.

employment, wages, automation
Global Economy An angle grinder cuts through a steel pipe causing sparks to fly
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Wage Growth in Advanced Economies

Ivailo Arsov and Richard Evans

Nominal wage growth in advanced economies has been sluggish, despite unemployment in a number of places falling to levels consistent with full employment. This article finds that, in most economies, low wage growth does not reflect a weaker relationship with unemployment. Instead, lower productivity growth, the difficulty of cutting wages following the global financial crisis and a decline in labour's bargaining power help explain some of the wage sluggishness. There also appears to be a common, but yet unidentified, factor that has weighed on wages over the past two years.

employment, wages
Financial Institutions Tow high-rise buildings frame the upper portion of the Sydney's Town Hall
Photo: Andreybl – Getty Images

Developments in Banks' Funding Costs and Lending Rates

Tessa McKinnon

This article updates previous Reserve Bank research on the composition and pricing of banks' debt funding and lending rates. The major banks' debt funding costs declined a little over 2017, primarily driven by a decline in the cost of deposits. Over the same period, overall lending rates were little changed, with higher household lending rates partly offset by lower business lending rates.

funding composition, banking, financial instruments, bonds
Australian Economy A highrise building stands out among lower suburb buildings.
Photo: Simon Bradfield – Getty Images

The Distribution of Mortgage Rates

Michelle Bergmann and Michael Tran

Mortgage interest rates can vary considerably across borrowers and are typically less than the standard variable rates (SVRs) advertised by banks. This article uses loan-level data to explore the relationships between interest rates and the characteristics of borrowers and their loans. Mortgages with riskier characteristics tend to have higher interest rates. Discounts applied to SVRs have tended to increase over recent years, and are also influenced by the type of loan and its size.

mortgages, interest rates, securitisation
Global Economy Chinese banknotes cover a table
Photo: Hudiemm – Getty Images

Non-bank Financing in China

Joel Bowman, Mark Hack and Miles Waring

The rise of shadow banking activities over the past decade has provided a range of benefits to the Chinese economy and financial system. Yet, it has also raised considerable financial stability risks, prompting Chinese authorities to announce many changes to the regulatory and supervisory framework. This Bulletin article examines the nature and complexity of shadow banking and highlights the challenges facing the Chinese authorities.

china, shadow banking
Payments Banknotes from England, Canada and Australia are lying on a flat surface
Photo: Gangliu Maogg Tatomm – Getty Images

High-denomination Banknotes in Circulation: A Cross-country Analysis

Gordon Flannigan and Stephanie Parsons

In Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, the number of high-denomination banknotes in circulation has increased at an above-trend rate in recent years. Evidence suggests that overseas demand might be a common driver of this elevated growth. Increased domestic demand for both transaction and store-of-value purposes may also have contributed, as well as responses to changes in government and central bank policies. This research was undertaken with assistance from members of the Four Nations Distribution Working Group, in line with the group's objective to explore banknote-related topics that are directly relevant to the member central banks.

banknotes

The graphs in the Bulletin were generated using Mathematica.

ISSN 1837-7211 (Online)