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Economics & Markets

Market events on our watch list after a shaky start to 2020

By Diana Mousina
Economist - Investment Strategy & Dynamic Markets Sydney, Australia

There are tools the federal government and Reserve Bank could use to kick-start the economy, especially after a difficult start to 2020, which included the bushfire crisis and Coronavirus epidemic. Some of these options – like tax cuts – could help boost spending and sentiment in what is set to be a sluggish year for growth.

The high-level outlook

Even before the calendar year began, the growth outlook was subdued at best for Australia. It’s important to note that, though the volatility of the first few months has rattled markets, it was never looking to be a stand-out year for GDP.

There are a number of factors contributing to this, which were known to us in 2019. For example, we have low wages growth, and business investment growth isn’t particularly strong. The mining sector is also coming back as a share of the economy, but non-mining growth remains relatively soft.

In November 2019, annual growth retail spending has fallen to 2.7% from 3.3%. This year, consumer spending will be impacted by the bushfires and the impact of the coronavirus travel restrictions on the tourism industry.

Overall, we expect GDP growth in Australia this year to be at around the two per cent mark, which is tracking lower than the average of about two and half to three per cent.

Given the subdued growth projections, there are a number of measures that could be on the cards this year.

Income tax cuts

For Australian households, tax cuts are one of the most effective forms of stimulus the federal government can action.

At this stage, there is nothing officially in the works, as per the mid-year economic outlook released in December last year.

However, the federal budget is set to be handed down in May, which is often where the government announces any changes to tax concessions or new tax cuts. For example, at the last federal budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down tax cuts for middle-income earners, effective immediately.

Cash rate cuts

We expect the cash rate will continue to fall in 2020, reaching a low of 0.25% over the next six months. We don’t expect the cash rate to fall beyond that point, because it’s unlikely that cuts beyond that point would be passed on by the banks, through interest rates on mortgages.

Quantitative easing

Only when the cash rate reaches about 0.25% and there are signs that the government is not going to provide stimulus via fiscal policy would the RBA embark on a quantitative easing program.

Quantitative easing usually involves using printed money to buy up securities, government bonds, highly-rated mortgaged-backed securities and highly-rated corporate debt.

The aim of quantitative easing is to inject cash into the economy, in the hope that some of it will be lent out, that people will take on more risk and that long-term interest rates will remain low.

This measure would provide some help. However, if you look at other countries that have employed quantitative easing, there hasn’t been a big increase in lending. Our bond and interest rates are already low, and most Australians borrow over the short-term and not the long-term.

Surplus sacrifice

At this stage, the federal government appears to be more open to providing a smaller surplus in the 2020 federal budget, in order to provide further relief to the bushfire-impacted parts of Australia.

A surplus is important to Australia’s triple A credit rating, so this is something to keep an eye on. Windfall from commodity prices would be supportive of a surplus, which for the time being, is a wait and see situation.

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Diana Mousina, Senior Economist
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Important notes

While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.


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