MONEY MATTERS & BUSINESS OVERVIEW

RBA RETAINS 1.5 PERCENT

The Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has announced the basic cash rate remains at 1.5 percent. Nearly every analyst is tipping this rate could drop by the end of this financial year. (It has been at 1.5 percent for 31 months.)

ALL EYES ON THE 18TH

Whichever way you look at it, the federal election on the 18th May is significant for business for two reasons: it puts an end to the traditional consumer period of a run-up to an election where many purchases are deferred and, hopefully, we all get an idea of what is likely to happen for the next 3 years which impacts on business planning.

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MORE GOOD NEWS

The latest official job stats show a monthly lift in the number of full-time jobs, reaffirming a trend that has now continued for some time. And the latest numbers are even better than was being predicted. Clearly whoever wins on May 18th gets a solid economy.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE HIGH

Buoyed by the prospect of tax relief, consumers have picked up their confidence, delivering a budget bounce. This is the one big finding of the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index which rose by 1.9 percent to 100.7. (And that number means optimists marginally outnumber pessimists.) A spokesperson said: "Sentiment showed a clear boost, with sentiment amongst those surveyed post-budget 7.7 percent higher than sentiment amongst those surveyed pre-budget. Workers who believed they had the most to gain from the budget, including those earning more than $80,000 a year, recorded the largest boost in confidence.”

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SO YOU THINK YOU'RE MIDDLE INCOME?

There is a real elusion about the actual level of being a middle-income person. A new study by ANU’s Christopher Hoy found 92 percent of Australians claim to be among the middle 60 percent of income earners and around half ranked themselves in the middle 20 percent. Those findings reveal how badly misguided many are about where our incomes rank relative to other Australians. While the top tax rate of 45 cents in the dollar for earnings over $180,000 a year has become an unofficial benchmark for a high income - even though only about 3 per cent of taxpayers actually earn enough to incur that top rate. But the true share of Australians with a high income is much bigger than that and some might consider themselves to be a middle income earner simply because they have not yet graduated to the highest tax bracket. Research by the Grattan Institute shows the median or middle-wage in Australia (when both full-timers and part-timers are included) was a little under $58,000 a year. And the latest statistics released by the ATO showed Australia’s median taxable income was even lower at $44,382; and that means half of all tax returns lodged last year were lower than that figure. The Institute reckons the real mid-point is in a range of between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.

SYDNEY DROPS DOWN THE HIGH COST LIST

This may come as a surprise but Sydney is no longer among the world's top 10 most expensive cities to live. It has fallen six spots to 16th place in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living 2019 survey, while Melbourne dropped eight spots to 22nd and Brisbane was 41st (-15). Adelaide (51st, -21) and Perth (64th, -18) were among the biggest movers down the ranking in the past 12 months. EIU global chief economist Simon Baptist insists: “Australian cities were cheaper by between 10 and 13 percent from last year, and interestingly Sydney and Melbourne have large drops at 13 percent. Only about 8 percent of that drop was due to the weaker Australian dollar”, he said. After topping the survey for five years, Singapore has been joined by Paris and Hong Kong in a tie at the top of the table. Zurich and Geneva rounded out the top five, while New York and Los Angeles reclaimed spots in the top 10 - ranking in 7th and 10th respectively. (The survey is designed to help companies calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.)

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TALKING ABOUT HIGH COST CITIES

While Sydney has moved down the list of high cost cities as part of a general trend in house prices, it appears one of the bargain locations has definitely moved the other way. For a few years Hobart was among Australia’s cheaper cities in which to buy a house but that has all changed. According to the locals in that southern capital, mainland investors have been buying the reasonably priced houses close to the Hobart CBD and turned them into AirBnB investments; which with the cheap airfares has proven money well spent. Inevitably, the present situation sees the median prices for houses in those areas now approaching 7 figures and just about staying up there despite the current downturn.

WHY SYDNEY UNIS LEAD TO BIGGER SALARIES

Graduates from Sydney's major universities are earning up to 10 percent more than their Melbourne counterparts just a few years after finishing their degrees. And while 9 in 10 graduates are in full-time work a few years out of university, the short and medium-term employment prospects of university leavers are struggling to return to their pre-global financial crisis levels. The figures are contained in a new report which for the first time reveals university-by-university data on graduates' earnings in their first years in the workforce. Tracking the class of 2014, the survey found that by 2018, graduates of the 6 largest universities in NSW earned a median salary of at least $70,000 - except for Western Sydney University, where the median was $67,000. By contrast, of Victoria's six largest universities, the only institution to reach the $70,000 threshold was Monash.

AND FINALLY, THE ELECTRIC CAR FARCE

The local motor industry has had a huge laugh over the past month as the various uninformed politicians have come out with all manner of claims and promises about what they say will be a coming boom in electric car sales. Some promises have even involved electric cars from local car factories – which don’t exist any more. The fact is such powered vehicles are currently less than one percent of our vehicle registrations and as a recent government report revealed, Australia neither has the total generating capacity nor the network to provide an instant on-demand ability to cope with the daily recharging of masses of large batteries. In the case of Victoria, industry specialists insist the peak period demand is barely met by the present generating capacity and there is no plan to cope with any big increase.