The Reserve Bank has pumped extra liquidity into the banking system, part of a package of measures aimed at ensuring business and households have access to credit as the coronavirus causes chaos in global financial markets.
The RBA used its daily money market operation to add $5.9 billion to the system through regular repurchase agreements, well above its original intention of $2.5 billion.
That followed an injection of $8.8 billion on Friday, which had left commercial banks with a hefty $10.7 billion of surplus cash held at the RBA.
Monday’s operations came as the Australian stock market slumped at the start of the new week amid growing coronavirus fears. More than $100 billion in value was wiped off the ASX in its first half-hour of trade on Monday, which few stocks exempt from the wipeout.
Earlier, the RBA said it would conduct one-month and three-month repurchase (repo) operations until further notice.
It will also conduct repo operations of six-months maturity or longer at least weekly, as long as market conditions warrant, as part of a package of liquidity measures from Australia’s Council of Financial Regulators (CFR).
The CFR said financial regulators and the government were working closely together to help ensure financial markets continue to operate effectively and that credit is available to households and businesses.
The steps followed a move by major central banks to offer global markets cheap US dollar funding, while the US Federal Reserve cut its interest rates by 100 basis points to between 0 and 0.25 per cent in another emergency move on Sunday.
“Australia’s financial system is resilient and it is well placed to deal with the effects of COVID-19,” the CFR said.
“The banking system is well capitalised and is in a strong liquidity position. Substantial financial buffers are available to be drawn down if required to support the economy.”
Analysts fear economic activity will contract in the current March quarter as the virus hammers tourism and trade, raising the risk Australia could skid into its first recession since 1991.
The Council includes the RBA, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Treasury.
APRA and ASIC said they would take banks’ circumstances into account when administrating regulations and laws to make it easier for them to keep lending.
The CFR said it will meet major lenders later this week to discuss how they can best support households and businesses.
“The council will be emphasising the importance of a continuing supply of credit, particularly to small businesses,” it said.
“It will be also discussing with the lenders whether there are impediments to lending that council members could help to address.”