Economics-Watching: Does Monetary Policy Affect Non-Mining Business Investment in Australia?

[from the Reserve Bank of Australia, by Gulnara Nolan, Jonathan Hambur and Philip Vermeulen]


Business investment is a key driver of economic growth. When investment is strong, workers have access to more capital and equipment, making them more productive and able to contribute to stronger productivity growth. Business investment is also thought to be an important driver of economic cycles and stimulating business investment is one of the key mechanisms through which monetary policy is thought to work.

However, non-mining business investment in Australia was fairly weak over much of the 2010s, despite declines in interest rates and moderate economic growth. While several explanations have been put forward, one potential explanation is that monetary policy is not very effective at stimulating business investment or has become less effective over time.

This study examines the effect of monetary policy changes on non-mining business investment using a variety of national and firm-level investment data, exploring both the aggregate effect of monetary policy and the channels through which monetary policy affects investment.


We provide new evidence on the effect of monetary policy on investment in Australia using firm-level data. We find that contractionary monetary policy makes firms less likely to invest and lowers the amount they invest if they do so. The effects are similar for young and old firms, indicating that the decline in the number of young firms in Australia over time is unlikely to have weakened the effect of monetary policy. The effects are also broadly similar for smaller and larger firms. This suggests that evidence that some, particularly large, firms have sticky hurdle rates does not mean that they do not respond to monetary policy. It also suggests that overseas findings that expansionary monetary policy lessens competition by supporting the largest firms likely do not apply to Australia. We find evidence that financially constrained firms, and sectors that are more dependent on external finance, are more responsive to monetary policy, highlighting the important role of cash flow and financing constraints in the transmission of monetary policy. Finally, we find evidence that monetary policy affects firms’ actual and expected investment contemporaneously, suggesting that expectations are reactive and will tend to lag over the cycle.

Read the full paper [archived PDF].