Weaker Aussie $ helping transition from mining: RBA

RBA governor Glenn Stevens is looking towards better business confidence to boost investment by companies.
RBA governor Glenn Stevens is looking towards better business confidence to boost investment by companies.PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA • The central bank of Australia said yesterday that a weakening currency is assisting a transition away from mining investment, while adding that accommodative policy remains appropriate to support growth.

"Economic activity had generally been more positive over recent months," the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said in the minutes of its Aug 4 meeting when interest rates were left at a record-low 2 per cent.

"The further depreciation of the Australian dollar was expected to impart stimulus to the economy through stronger net exports."

Policymakers are gaining a degree of confidence that post-mining boom growth is gaining traction, citing recent stronger data including employment figures.

The RBA is also relying on its American counterpart to raise interest rates later this year, as this could spur a further reduction in a local currency that has already dropped 8 per cent in the past three months.

"There was likely to be a sizeable market impact notwithstanding how well telegraphed the change in policy had been," the RBA said of an expected US Federal Reserve move. "It was likely that financial market volatility would increase and the US dollar could appreciate further, including against the Australian dollar."

The RBA was a little more positive on key trading partner China, saying risks to growth in the world's second-largest economy had "receded somewhat". Still, the central bank said the government in Beijing's "policy response to the recent volatility in Chinese equity markets had clouded the medium-term economic outlook".

RBA Governor Glenn Stevens and his board have held rates for the past three months and have signalled reluctance to cut further as house prices escalate in Sydney and Melbourne. The central bank said recent responses by lenders to measures imposed by the banking regulator that targeted property investors "would be expected to reduce the risks relating to the housing market".

Even so, Mr Stevens is still waiting for an improvement in business confidence as a precursor to higher investment by firms.

Sentiment has been more positive, aided by tax cuts in the May budget, yet hurdles remain. Businesses plan to cut investment in the next 12 months by the most on record, wage growth is at levels unseen since the early 1990s recession and the economy has grown below its 3.3 per cent average for six of the past seven years.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Weaker Aussie $ helping transition from mining: RBA'. Print Edition | Subscribe