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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The graphs in the Bulletin were generated using Mathematica.
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