Tax cuts buoy confidence, but risks remain

Angus Livingston, AAP National Economics Writer
(Australian Associated Press)


Tax refunds are flushing through the economy and consumer spending intentions are rising but Josh Frydenberg warns global tensions pose real risks.

The treasurer warned businesses on Tuesday evening about the impact of the United States and China’s trade war, and the conflict with Iran, on Australia’s economy.

“Now in times of global economic and political uncertainty, it is more critical than ever to provide stability and certainty in our economic settings and not get drawn into overreacting,” Mr Frydenberg said in a speech to a business lobby event on Tuesday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia also revealed in its board meeting minutes it kept the official cash rate at one per cent because of concerns about low wage growth and international tensions.

The RBA said the decision was based in part on the unemployment rate, which has stayed at 5.2 per cent for several months.

“At the same time, wages growth had remained low and there were few indications that wage pressures were building,” the RBA said.

“Members judged that it was reasonable to expect that an extended period of low interest rates would be required in Australia to make sustained progress towards full employment.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed residential property prices fell 0.7 per cent in the June quarter, taking the total value of Australia’s 10.3 million residential dwellings down $17.6 billion to $6.6 trillion.

“The falls in Melbourne were driven by detached dwellings, while attached dwellings drove the fall in Sydney,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said.

There was some positive news from the Commonwealth Bank Household Spending Intentions research, which showed a significant lift in consumer positivity is under way.

“Spending intentions are improving in Australia, with a combination of income tax refunds and a stronger housing market leading the charge,” CBA chief economist Michael Blythe said.

“Significantly, the home-buying spending intentions series has moved back into positive territory and this should help drive a further improvement in retail spending intentions in the months ahead.”

But the ANZ-Roy Morgan weekly Australian Consumer Confidence index paints a different picture.

It recorded a 4.8 per cent slide in people’s expectations for their finances over the next 12 months.

“While households feel okay about their current financial situation, they are clearly quite worried about the outlook, for both their own finances and the economy,” ANZ economist Felicity Emmett said.

Mr Blythe said the tax refunds flowing into CBA accounts were about 40 per cent above “normal” levels.

“The boost to household spending power is larger and coming through sooner than originally expected,” Mr Blythe said.

“The better news is that this tax refund money seems set to flow through to consumer spending.”


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