Business investment will fall over the next year, but the good news is that the drop isn’t getting any steeper.
Businesses plan to invest over $150 billion in 2015/16, which is 23 per cent below the estimate for 2014/15 made in August last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
However they have upgraded their investment plans by 10 per cent in the past three months.
In those three months, the Australian dollar fell as much as eight US cents to a low of 70.44 US cents earlier this week.
Commonwealth Bank economist Michael Workman said the manufacturing sector helped push businesses spending plans higher recently.
“I think that the currency is a very big help in making the outlook more positive for the groups outside of the mining sector,” he said.
A falling Australian dollar helps makes locally produced goods more competitive with imports.
“If they know that imports aren’t going to have a big price advantage because the currency is likely to be more like 70 US cents rather than 80 US cents, that’s got to be a positive for them,” Mr Workman said.
However he added that mining investment intentions are pretty much unchanged for the year ahead compared to the previous ABS survey.
“There will be fairly big falls in (mining investment) but there’s an argument about the level we’re going to settle at, but that’s three years away,” he said.
ANZ economist Daniel Gradwell said investment intentions are weak but it’s encouraging that businesses are looking a little less gloomy.
“Today’s data show a much-needed improvement in business capital expenditure expectations, after being particularly disappointing over the last two quarters,” he said.
“This upgrade is in line with the trend improvement in business confidence and conditions over the past few months.”
Mr Gradwell predict no lift in mining industry spending particularly as large projects are completed over the coming months.
“In addition, the ongoing weakness in commodity prices has reduced even further the likelihood of new mineral or energy projects commencing construction to fill some of the void,” he said.
JP Morgan Australia chief economist Stephen Walters found the ABS capital expenditure survey particularly disappointing given the recent positives about the economy.
“The survey was collected after the lows in key commodity prices, but before the onset of China’s wobbles and the turmoil in financial markets,” he said.
“The bounce in iron ore prices, in particular, should have played a role in lifting sentiment.”