Pete Wargent blogspot

CEO AllenWargent Property Buyers, & WargentAdvisory (institutional). 6 x finance author.

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Zero hour


Are Australian interest rates on a long slow march to zero?

I think it's fair to say that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has been a reluctant cutter through this cycle. 

But we might yet end up hitting the zero lower bound anyway, with a few of the contributory factors noted below.

Record iron ore stockpiles are now beginning to bite, with the commodity price now entering a bear market. 

Sure, coking coal prices have spiked 40 per cent this week, but that's more than likely going to be a temporary issue (and Australian supply has been a key factor anyway). 

The Trump trade may finally be running out of legs, with military action on the cards.

Yields on Australian bonds have accordingly fallen back over recent weeks.

Core inflation is currently tracking at just 1.55 per cent, well under the target range, with the inflation figures for the March 2017 quarter due out towards the end of the month. 

Analysts expect the quarterly result to come in under the target range again, though an average print of 0.4 may be just about considered acceptable if it nudges the annual rate of core inflation back up to about 1.8 per cent. 

The question that nobody seems to have answered satisfactorily is what will plug the gap when residential construction turns down.

For now dwelling approvals remain quite elevated, held up by Sydney and Melbourne, and indeed AIG records all three of its performance indices in expansion territory, including manufacturing (57.5), construction (51.2), and services (51.7). 

But the actual level of dwelling construction activity appears to be slowing, particularly for apartments, and most certainly in Brisbane.

In the US and the UK ultra-low policy has seen the unemployment rates decline to just 4.5 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively, yet in Australia unemployment has levitated back up to 5.9 per cent.

The March Labour Force figures will be released on Thursday - let's hope for some vital signs.