Australian economy expected to shrink for first three months of 2020: ANZ, NAB

Economists at ANZ and National Australia Bank are tipping the economy will shrink in the first three months of this year as the coronavirus and bushfires weigh down an already soft Australian economy.

The bearish assessments come as RBA governor Philip Lowe said he would be surprised it the economy shrunk in the March quarter.

ANZ estimates the impact of the coronavirus will slash 0.5 of a percentage point off March quarter gross domestic product and a smaller hit from the bushfires.

The bank forecasts the economy to contract 0.1 per cent in the first quarter, before recovering later in the year.

"The understandable travel ban in place in Australia on all foreign nationals who have been in China, as well as airline cancellations, will act to sharply reduce the level of tourist arrivals," ANZ economists said in a research note.

"There is a very wide range of uncertainties around the outlook. The virus’s timeline, the behaviour of non-China tourism, the impact on broader Chinese and global growth, and the degree to which Australians limit their travel abroad.

"While the hit to near-term growth is large, we expect the number of arrivals from China to turn around in Q2, with the rebound in tourism adding to growth in Q3 and Q4.

"Consequently, the impact on year-end growth is likely to be small."

NAB chief economist Alan Oster is also expecting a negative March quarter, suggesting that the effects of the coronavirus and bushfires will hit consumption levels, which he expects to be lower than what most economists forecast.

"We haven't put a number on it but we expect GDP to go negative in the March quarter. The question will be: is it a big negative or a small negative?"

While not officially forecasting a negative December quarter, Mr Oster said.

Gdp Growth Australian Economy

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