High $A threat to service sector: report

The rising Australian dollar could put the brakes on key industries, according to an economic research firm.

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The warning came in the quarterly report on investment trend from Deloitte Access Economics, which confirmed the economy’s centre of gravity is shifting.

“NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania are demonstrating an effective investment performance, while WA, Queensland, and to a lesser extent South Australia, are experiencing the same effects of the rapidly dissipating resources boom,” Deloitte said.

Economic growth is a “service sector story”, dominated by finance, property services and retail, all benefiting from record low interest rates.

There was also growth in information technology, with health care and education helped by the positive effect of the housing price boom on the NSW and Victorian state budgets.

The economic background has been favourable.

“In particular, output and employment growth gains are sound, while commodity prices have rebounded recently and China is still growing at solid rates which is helping to boost tourist flows and spending in Australia,” DAE said.

But all that hinges on the Aussie dollar.

After recovering from a January dip to below 68.5 US cents, it has traded around 77 US cents since mid-April.

“A stronger Australian dollar could, if it is sustained, put gains in tourism and international education at risk, and hurt the nation’s long-suffering manufacturers and farmers,” Deloitte said.

“The dollar has not yet reached that point, and interest rates remain highly accommodative.”

The report tabulated over one thousand investment projects valued at over $20 million, from projects already under construction to those seen as just possible.

Their value in the first quarter of 2016 was $780.5 billion, down from $812.3 billion a year earlier.

The drop was accounted for by mining, including oil and gas, where projects under construction fell to $179.8 billion, down by $45.7 billion or 20 per cent.

Elsewhere, the total value of projects was $430.4 billion, up by $12.3 billion or four per cent from a year before.