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Printed: 29 May 2024 5:56 AM


18 Apr 2024 - An upgrade to the financial system's plumbing

By: Pendal

An upgrade to the financial system's plumbing


April 2024

THE plumbing of Australia's financial system is a bit like the plumbing in your house - of little interest until something goes wrong.

For those few who do take an interest in the RBA and our financial system's plumbing, the Assistant Governor Chris Kent gave a speech on Tuesday last week: "The Future of Monetary Policy Implementation".

By the end of this year, he explained, Australia will have a new system called "Ample Reserves".

In short, the central bank will set a price for "Open Market Operations" (repos) and offer unlimited quantity - instead of setting the quantity and letting the market determine the price, as was the previous system.

Banks have been flush (so to speak) with liquidity since early 2020, courtesy of RBA quantitative easing and the term funding facility over the pandemic.

These are now slowly rolling off, reducing excess reserves in the system.

The RBA is worried that the pre-pandemic "corridor and low reserve" system may not work so well.

That system relied on the RBA accurately forecasting government inflows and outflows into the system (think taxes and welfare payments) and offsetting them by adding or draining the cash back into the system through repos and reverse repos.

You lend them securities and they give you cash that you then pay interest on or vice versa.

The corridor meant banks could always borrow or lend unlimited funds with the RBA at 0.25% above or below target cash, but hardly ever did.

With Ample Reserves, banks can go to the RBA and offer unlimited securities to repo in return for cash (OMOs) at a pre-set margin to the official cash rate.

The price and frequency of these operations are yet to be determined but look like at least weekly and something like the target cash rate plus five basis points (currently 4.40%).

The RBA will release more details later in the year after market consultations.

So, what does this mean for investors?

The good news for leveraged portfolios is that there is now an "ample" supply of central bank liquidity at a reasonable price.

For investors, the good news is that overnight cash should eventually drift back towards target cash levels rather than sit at the ES level.

This would mean closer to 4.35% than 4.25% at current cash targets.

The bad news for investors, however, is that bank bills are less likely to drift too far above cash again.

Also, for relative value funds, government bond baskets (where bonds trade to futures) are less likely to get too cheap again.

Overall, it is a new era for the RBA.

It is not only temporarily moving out of the asbestos-ridden 65 Martin Place while expensive and long overdue renovations are undertaken, but it now has a new way of ensuring system liquidity is always rock solid.

Author: Tim Hext, Pendal portfolio manager and head of government bond strategies

Funds operated by this manager:

Pendal Focus Australian Share FundPendal Global Select Fund - Class RPendal Horizon Sustainable Australian Share FundPendal MicroCap Opportunities FundPendal Sustainable Australian Fixed Interest Fund - Class RRegnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund - Class RRegnan Credit Impact Trust Fund

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