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October 2020 Economic Update

Within this month’s update, we share with you a snapshot of economic occurrences both nationally and from around the globe. 

Labour markets seemingly improve

- Australian unemployment rate fell to 6.8%, still high but better than expected due in part to JobKeeper - RBA and government are expected to provide more economic stimulus  - US presidential election may cause elevated volatility in financial markets

We hope you find this month’s Economic Update as informative as always. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss any aspect of this report, please contact us.

The Big Picture

Both Australian and US unemployment rates fell markedly in their September data releases. However, the data might not truly reflect job status as government programs are being used to retain employees through these difficult times – and those that have lost jobs have been getting some extra assistance.

It is far too soon to suggest that either economy is really healing and more needs to be done from a policy perspective. The prospect of a new wave of COVID-19 infections could seriously send unemployment rates higher again.

October is likely to be a big month for policy announcements in Australia. The federal budget will be announced on the same day (October 6th) as the RBA board meets to announce any monetary policy changes. Traditionally, the RBA does not act on the same day as a federal budget but these are different times.

The RBA had started September keeping its Official Cash rate on hold but it announced $200bn of ‘cheap money’ it was going to make available to the banks to lend to their customers.

It had previously been thought that the RBA would not cut the Cash rate by another 0.25% points to zero in October. Recently Governor Philip Lowe hinted at a ‘partial cut’ to 0.1% was a possibility. It wasn’t until Westpac’s chief economist, Bill Evans, called for such a cut at the October meeting that markets reacted strongly with our dollar depreciating against the US dollar. 

The following day, the government announced that it was relaxing its restrictions on borrower credit checks by banks. The big four bank shares jumped sharply in price on the news and our dollar fell even further.

Our dollar reached a recent low of $US0.5571 earlier in the year before climbing to $US0.7412, largely on US dollar weakness. The double finance announcements took the dollar down to just above $US0.70 in only a matter of days!

It is now time for the government to step up to the plate again and see what it can do to keep the economy alive until a vaccine is available to help life return to normal – albeit a new normal.

As is traditional, the government is leaking thoughts to the media before the budget to test the voters’ reactions. Tax cuts and more stimulus along the lines of JobSeeker and JobKeeper are likely.


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