Impact of the US Credit Crunch on Australian Economy
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Published: Wed, 21 Feb 2018
However, due to the US housing credit crunch and turbulence in financial markets all over the world immediately took into effect and global economic growth slowed towards the end of the year (O’Brien et al., 2007). Given this basic premise of the current financial crisis, this literature review will be guided by exploring studies made on how the US-induced credit crunch affected the Australian economy, particularly the housing market.
The first stage of this literature review is attributed to describing the current financial crisis, specifically the events that led to its development such as the collapse of the US housing and banking sectors in 2007. Part of discussing the events that took place after the onset of the financial crisis would be to examine the various mechanisms employed by financial institutions and national governments in order to mitigate the direct and indirect consequences of the financial crisis. The second part of this literature review seeks to determine the effects of the financial crisis to the Australian economy, as well as the various policy responses made by both the Reserve Bank of Australia (herein referred to as RBA) and the Australian government. Finally, this literature review will determine whether studies on the current financial crisis were able to provide sufficient attention to the manner by which it affected the housing market, particularly in the case of Australia.
The rationale behind these assertions lies on the need to broaden the scope of examining the consequences brought about by the credit crunch in 2007 and the financial crisis in 2008, from being centered in the US to involve other nations as well. It should always be understood that the effect of the “subprime meltdown was not limited to US firms exposed to the subprime mortgage market for the reason that globalization made regional financial markets so interconnected that crisis spread across countries at tremendous speed” (Moosa, 2008). Hence, it is just apropos to exhaust scholarly works that have managed to realize that at this point in time, economic activities of nations are intertwined and the development of policy solutions should also undergo the same process.
Another reason for this literature review would be to identify research gaps that will in turn serve as a motivation for future studies on the effect of the current financial crisis towards nations’ economies such as the case of Australia. Since the underlying context for this review of related literature is the 2007 credit crunch and the 2008-present global financial crisis, the period covered for the literature surveyed in this paper will be from 2007 to the present. With these things taken into consideration, the focus of this literature review will be the effect of the 2008 financial crisis to the housing market in Australia.
From the broad circumstance of the credit crunch and the financial crisis that happened in the US and inevitably transgressed to the rest of the world, this literature review seeks to identify the relationship from a macroeconomic environment of the global financial crisis to a specific case of the housing market in Australia. The justification for this lies on the need to determine whether policy responses used in the US are effective or otherwise in mitigating the direct consequences of the crisis, and vice versa.
The credit crunch and the global financial crisis
As it had been previously mentioned, this portion of the literature review is allotted to discuss the credit crunch as well as the occurrence of the global financial crisis. Both the credit crunch and the financial crisis are crucial concepts in this review for the reason that it will be impossible to present and examine the effects of the financial crisis to the Australian economy, specifically the housing sector if these concepts are not understood properly.
According to the National Institute Economic Review (2008), the 2008 financial crisis is “rooted in the US subprime mortgage defaults”. Moosa (2009) defines subprime mortgages to encompass all activities involving the granting of loan to borrowers with inferior credit worthiness creating complex financial products. Meanwhile, Honohan (2008) in his study defines a credit crunch as “credit related crises suffered by banks and other intermediaries which is often the cause of contraction in lending market especially if these are triggered by exogenous economic shocks”. The positive attribute of the definitions provided by these authors lie on the fact that these are lifted from actual events and circumstances, more specifically the 2007 credit crunch and the current financial crisis.
Another interesting point with regard to the financial crisis was given by Barrell and Hurst (2008) who stressed that “financial crises are episodic and frequent and are difficult to address without major impacts in the prospect for financial growth”. Based on this observation by Barrel and Hurst (2008), it becomes evident that it is inevitable under conditions of financial crises that economic growth will not be affected, especially with globalization as the underlying condition.
With regard to the direct cause that led to the development of the financial crisis, Ben Bernanke (2008), believe that the period of financial turbulence on the part of the US began in 2006 when there were uncontrollable contractions in the US housing market that were caused by the inability of certain individuals to pay for subprime mortgages. Moreover, this was reinforced by increasing constraints on credit availability, which has dramatically slowed down the economy and has made it less responsive to market changes.
Honohan (2008) supports this further in his discussion on the evolution of the 2008 financial crisis by asserting that “the origin of the crisis was especially pronounced in the housing market wherein credit losses are so massive that it cannot be replenished anymore”. The fall of house prices in the US and other major economies such as the UK directly affected economic growth in other countries. In his study, Honohan (2008) also believes that although the current global financial crisis was triggered by the 2007 credit crunch in the US banking sector brought about by the bursting of the housing bubble, definitions such as those presented by Moosa (2009) and Barrell and Hurst (2008) should not be confined to the US experience. The explanation behind this is that other nations might have responded differently upon the advent of financial crisis.
In this case the positive aspects of the study by Honohan (2008) lies on the fact that it was able to present a coherent discussion of the origin of the 2008 financial crisis as something that did not happen overnight. Instead, Honohan (2008) attributes the occurrence of the financial crisis to ineffective risk management and lax monetary and fiscal policies in the US and eventually the rest of the world. Although Honohan’s (2008) article was focused on the banking aspect of the financial crisis and how mortgage problems in the US, his discussion of the detrimental effects of the crisis such as the closure and bankruptcy of banks and lending institutions were effective in stressing the importance of coherent monetary policies.
On the other hand, the research gap identified in the article presented by Honohan (2008) is that it was highly concentrated on the banking sector in the US, thus, ignoring the direct consequences of the credit crunch and the financial crisis to the housing sector. It should always be taken into account that the financial crisis originated in the housing sector. Hence, potential solutions should first be geared towards addressing the negative consequences brought about by the crisis in the housing sector. Another gap in the study made by Honohan (2008) was that it was not able to present recommendations that will serve as a guide to policy makers as to how to mitigate the direct and indirect consequences of the current financial crisis.
In a similar study, Barrell and Davis (2008) observed that the evolution of the 2007-2008 financial crises was brought about by “low global interest rates arising in turn from high levels of global liquidity”. This can be explained further by the case of the US wherein bank lending to households grew at unprecedented rates leading to the point that people can no longer pay their monthly dues. In addition to this, Barrell and Davis (2008) also indicated that banks are expected to hold increasingly low levels of balance sheet liquid assets, given low interest rates, and they undertook aggressive wholesale liability management to maintain funding levels”. Without these initial actions taken to address the earliest manifestation of a credit crunch particularly the collapse of the housing market, countries would not have survived the crisis and will be forced to close down major financial institutions.
Again, in order to understand the financial crisis and its effects towards nations and economies, it should be taken into consideration that the asset price bubble in the US in 2007 was perhaps the most noticeable occurrence in the housing sector and this has led to irreversible consequences in the financial sector. Given this event, Barrell and Hurst (2008) supports this by stating that it is the short-term fluctuations in house prices that affected consumption in countries like the US and the UK, therefore fostering slow growth in the rest of the developed world—and eventually, the rest of the world.
In their discussion of the present financial crises, as well as the prospects for recession, Barrell and Hurst (2008) stated that the best way to address the negative consequences of the crisis would be through effective monetary policy through interest rates reduction which should be set by the central bank in order to prevent bubbles like the housing bubble in the US from bursting and damaging economies at larger scales. The low global interest rates contributed to rapid credit expansion and rise in asset prices which greatly contributed to the US financial crisis (Barrell & Davis, 2008).
The benefits provided by the study made by Barrell and Hurst (2008) and the article written by Barrell and Davis (2008) would be that in both instances, the authors were able to recognize the collapse of the housing sector as the root cause of the financial crisis. Hence, in both articles, the authors believe that solutions for the current financial crisis should not neglect making changes in the structure of the housing sector.
As for the gaps in the studies presented by Barrell and Davies (2008) and Barrell and Hurst (2008), the authors in both articles failed to establish a strong relationship between the policy recommendations that they have made to counteract the negative effects of the financial crisis from worsening and the need to direct solutions at improving the housing sector to prevent another collapse in the future. Also, like most of the scholarly works reviewed in this paper, the articles presented by Barrell and Davies (2008) and Barrell and Hurst (2008) were both centered on the case of the US and the UK, without taking into account that these cases cannot be used to generalize the responses of other nations to the financial crisis.
Perceived solutions to the credit crunch and the financial crisis
After presenting the various definitions and understanding of the ongoing financial crisis, it is just apropos to also present the perceived solutions to the credit crunch as well as the financial crisis based on the literature reviewed for this study. According to Harris and Davidson (2009) governments have a huge role in addressing the credit crunches and financial crises through the enforcement of effective fiscal policy. The government holds responsibility to help manage the nation’s resources in order to foster growth and present more job-creating opportunities.
In the same article, Harris and Davidson (2009) also raised that the initial response to the credit crunch was reliant on the role of the government to intervene and take action to prevent the consequences from worsening into a financial crisis and a global recession. The example given in the article was the case of the US, whose immediate response would be Paulson’s initial $700 billion bail-out package that was envisioned to foster government spending through state and local governments spending.
The research gaps identified in the studies presented above, namely the lack of coherent recommendations to address the financial crisis at the practical level were addressed by Harris and Davidson (2009). The reason for this is that Harris and Davidson (2009) stressed on the need for fiscal policies to counteract the immediate effects of the credit crunch. Although the focus on government intervention can be considered both as a positive and negative aspect of the study for the reason that in order to fully control both the financial and the social effects of a credit crunch, it is not sufficient to simply rely on fiscal policy but have a combination of both monetary and fiscal policy. With these things taken into account, the only identifiable gap in the study by Harris and Davidson (2009) is that it was not able to discuss existing and potential monetary policies that may go hand in hand with fiscal policies in managing the negative consequences of the financial crisis.
The research gaps identified in the study by Harris and Davidson (2009) were effectively addressed in the study by Belke (2009) for the reason that it may have proposed the use of fiscal stimulus to counteract the direct effects of the credit crunch and that of the crisis as well but Belke (2009) also explored the option of having a combination of both monetary and fiscal policy in order prevent the credit crunch and the financial crisis from initiating a move towards a global economic meltdown. According to Belke (2009) the generic answer to prevent the generic economy from collapsing is that “use of fiscal policy to sustain demand, since monetary policy with its main concentration on interest rates approaching zero is no longer effective.
The strength of the study made by Belke (2009) is that it was able to cite concrete situations that will illustrate the effectiveness of using both fiscal and monetary policy. For instance, the case of the European Union (EU) specifically the UK wherein tax cuts are implemented in order to effectively increase demand and to foster higher levels and consumption were cited by Belke (2009) as an example of fiscal policy to boost the economy.
With these examples and conditions taken into account, the research gap in the study presented by Belke (2009) lies on the fact that it was not able to fully exhaust the potential options that will aid nations, especially those that are not dependent on credit consumption, to handle the immediate impact of the financial crisis that has been triggered by the credit crunch in the US in 2007. Moreover, even if the most suitable cases to illustrate the proposed solutions would be that of the US and other developed EU countries, it would have been better if Belke (2009) used a comparative method between countries that relied on both fiscal and monetary policy and those that did not. It is only through comparison that Belke (2009) could further justify the assertions and recommendations that she had made in her study. –
As it had been previously raised in this literature review, Belke (2009) was not able to establish a relationship between fiscal policy, monetary policy and the housing sector. The reason for this would be that the housing sector was the triggered the financial crisis. Thus, it is just apt that immediate solutions be directed toward the housing sector as well. Furthermore, the fact the Belke (2009) also focused on the case of the US and the developed countries in the EU is also considered as a gap in the research for the reason that the effectiveness of both fiscal and monetary policy cannot be generalized in the case of only the US or the UK.
The financial crisis and the housing sector
This portion of the literature review briefly presents the effect of the financial crisis on the housing sector, where it is believed to have originated. It is already given that the credit crunch and eventually the financial crisis emanated from the housing industry in the US, but this does not mean that research should be confined in the case of the US and other economic superpowers such as the UK. The academic literature available regarding the effect of the financial crisis on the housing market and vice versa was once again confined to the case and experiences of the US.
For example, in a speech delivered by Ben Bernanke (2008) he stated that housing markets remain weak, with low demand and the increased number of distressed properties on the market contributing to further declines in house prices and ongoing reductions in new construction. The observation made by Bernanke was reinforced by the arguments raised by Barrell (2008) wherein he pointed out that one of the significant factors that affected the worsening of the credit crunch into a full blown financial crisis would be the inability of the US government to respond to the need to intervene to economic activities.
Based on these statements, it can be said that homeowners are affected by the decline in demand for houses because they cannot sell at a loss given that the current market prices for the house are low. In addition to this, homeowners cannot make further investments because their money has been trapped in the real estate property that they hold and their inability to shoulder the dept payments. In another scenario, homeowners who are facing debt for their mortgage are facing high risks of losing their property since they may not have the proper mechanism to generate additional income in order to finance for the payment. This was supported by Miron (2009) when he stated that if government redistributes income by intervening in the mortgage market it will however, it creates the potential for large distortions of private behavior.
The financial crisis and the Australian Economy
Prior to examining available literature on the effect of the present global financial crisis to the Australian housing sector, it is necessary to present the broader picture by determining the effect of the financial crisis to the overall Australian economy as well as immediate policy responses employed to control its negative consequences. The need to examine the effect of the financial crisis on the economy lies on the fact that the “contagious effect of the subprime crisis has hit financial institutions in Europe and Australia, therefore, damaging health of s significant number of financial institutions and reducing the ability of others to run their business properly (Moosa, 2008). Under these conditions, Moosa (2008) presented a study that was driven by the need to clearly identify the effect of a US induced credit crunch and financial crisis towards the Australian economy, particularly in terms of the underlying policy decisions implemented by both the RBA and the government.
The bursting of the US housing market bubble in 2007 led to the rapid decline in the house prices and the downgrades of related asset-backed securities as well as the collapse of the banking and lending institutions in the US and most of the EU (Moosa, 2008). The same cannot be said in the case of Australia, where the housing market was not particularly overvalued as in the case of the US, but was nonetheless vulnerable to the harsh effects of the credit crunch. The explanation behind this is that there are still large portions of subprime loans granted to borrowers in Australia, hence there is still the risk that they may not have reliable credit records.
The only difference between the case of the most countries like the US and Australia in terms of the extent to which the financial crisis affected the economy are in terms of policy initiatives and effective regulation. Given this basic premise, Moosa (2008) asserted that one of the reasons why Australia was not subjected to massive losses after the financial crisis in 2008 was due to the fact that the housing sector did not experience massive shocks as in the case of the US, the UK and most countries in the EU.
Typically, mortgages in banks and lending institutions was hit hard by the collapse in the subprime housing market in the US, in the case of Australia, the effect was not severe by the bursting of the housing bubble. In his study, Moosa (2008) began by discussing the reason why the subprime crisis in the US took effect in June of 2007. Moosa (2008) identified two critical areas in order to explain this. First would be the lax monetary policy as indicated by the low interest rates; second, reckless lending of banks to dodgy borrowers and excessive securitization. Although Moosa (2008) indicated in his study that the Australian economy is still susceptible to the effects of the subprime crisis brought about by liquidity situations that push investors to stay away from private sector securities, the only difference is that the Australian financial sector had the necessary policies to balance this out.
The positive aspect of the study presented by Moosa (2008) is that it was able to showcase the difference between the effect of the current financial crisis in the US and other nations and Australia. Through Moosa’s (2008) study, it becomes clear that even though financial crises have a common shape, its consequences are not always the same for every nation. The explanation behind this is that each nation has its own set of fiscal and monetary policy. Consequently, nations, such as Australia respond differently to the same conditions set by the global financial crisis.
Regarding the research gap in Moosa’s (2008) study, it had failed to establish the elements that were present in the Australian economy that enabled it to respond differently and optimally to the shock that was brought about by the financial crisis, as well as the credit crunch which preceded it. What could have been done by Moosa (2008) in order to address this gap would be to cite concrete instances in the Australian economy wherein the implementation of effective policies was able to overcome the negative consequences of the financial crisis.
Malcolm Edey (2008), Assistant Governor of the RBA, was able to articulate reasons on why the Australian economy was able to withstand the detrimental consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. The arguments raised by Edey (2008) directly address the research gap identified in the article by Moosa (2008). According to Edey (2008), the reason why the Australian economy was able to minimize the losses despite the financial crisis and the looming threat of recession was due to the following reasons.
First, subprime loans are essentially loans that do not meet standard criteria for good credit quality. In Australia, a different policy was employed to address non conforming loans. Ellis (2009) supports this by stating that in Australia, citizens pay the interest in their home’s mortgage against their tax, so they are encouraged to keep their mortgage balances low. Second, unlike in other countries such as the US, the Australian government was able to develop coherent fiscal and monetary policy that will encourage households and business sectors to be more risk averse by having higher levels of savings and investment. An example of this would be the AUD 42 billion stimulus package that was called the National Building and Job Plan (Edey, 2008).
To further support the points raised by Edey (2008) and Ellis (2009), Steven Kennedy (2009) from the Australian Treasury presented three reasons on why the Australian economy was one of the few who managed to overcome the negative consequences brought about by the 2007 credit crunch and the existing global financial crisis. The primary reason identified by Kennedy (2009) was that the Australian government and the RBA had timely policy responses to the occurrence of the financial crisis. Second, being at close proximity with Asian countries, such as China, Australia was able to benefit from the continuous growth rates of these Asian economies. Finally, the Australian banking system has remained in good shape throughout the crisis which meant that it has effectively operated with sound rules and regulations.
The benefits offered by the studies made by Ellis (2009) and Kennedy (2009) is that both were able to acknowledge the unique characteristic of the Australian economy, which are deeply rooted in effective policy making and regulatory ability on the part of both the RBA and the government. In addition to this, income growth in Australia was already strong prior to the crisis which means that policy makers have to option to concentrate on weaker sectors of the economy that will experience the consequences of the crisis in a different scale.
Again, the research gap in the observations given by Ellis (2009) and Kennedy (2009) is that the practical examples and illustrations on how these policies were translated into actual practice are once again insufficient. Another problematic aspect of these articles is that the authors only presented the positive aspect of effective monetary and fiscal policies, thus, disregarding the fact that these might also manifest flaws that might jeopardize the success of the regulation. Ellis (2009) and Kennedy (2009) in their separate articles mentioned that Australia had an edge over other nations in terms of counteracting the direct effects of the financial crises, but both scholars failed to provide stronger basis to support such assertion.
The financial crisis and the housing market in Australia
The final section of this literature review is allotted in examining the available studies made with regard to the current state of the housing market in Australia and how it responded towards the occurrence of the financial crisis. With regard to the overall condition of the housing market, Edgerton (2008) presented a detailed discussion of the through the pricing, purchasing and selling trends in major Australian cities namely, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, and Canbera. The method used by Edgerton (2008) was to analyze trends in housing price increase and/or decrease as well as trends for sales and purchases of houses in these major Australian cities.
The findings from the study made by Edgerton (2008) indicate that it is not only the international factors such as the 2007 credit crunch and the existing financial crisis that may affect the overall performance and condition of the housing market. Instead, national factors may also affect the formation and eventually the bursting of housing bubbles. In order to support his claims Edgerton (2008) cited that Australia employ better lending standards compared to other countries, specifically the US.
To illustrate this further, in Australia, there are no recourse loans unlike in the US where many mortgages are non-recourse. Non-recourse loans mean that the borrower in financial difficulty to pay their debts has the option of handing their house back to the bank without incurring any liability for any shortfall when the house is sold. It is a different scenario in Australia because borrowers, regardless of whether they give back the house or not (Edgerton, 2008). Hence, unlike in the US and other markets, the borrowers in Australia remain liable for any shortfall. With this, the housing markets as well as banking and lending institutions in Australia are not tasked to shoulder the losses from subprime mortgages.
The strength of the study by Edgerton (2008) is that he was able to stress that Australia employs rather different regulatory practices compared to the US, particularly in handling mortgage. From a description of the quick acting policies in the housing, banking and lending sector, the Australian economy, most specifically the housing sector was able to survive and overcome the detrimental elements of the financial crisis.
It is also important to point out that Edgerton (2008) is one of the few scholars who gave attention to the importance of the housing market in determining the overall performance of the economy, specifically in the case of Australia. Besides, the housing market can serve as an avenue for added investments and new business opportunities; hence it should not be taken for granted, particularly during times of crises. It was also helpful that the paper presented had visual illustrations such as graphs in order to illustrate further the performance of the economy relative to the financial crisis and its effect on the housing sector.
On the other hand, the research gap in the study by Edgerton (2008) is that it was not able to establish the reasons that serve as motivation for the government to implement stricter mechanisms.
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