It is completely fair to say that it would be difficult to sustain a country’s economy in the absence of households’ consumption. The amount of money that employees are typically paid determines their purchasing power and their level of demand. Wages can, therefore, be said to be the best leading indicators of consumer inflation. More so, we can establish a direct correlation between the wages paid and the growth of the economy. For this reason, forex traders need to understand how wages drive the economy and the currency.
Wages are compensation that an employer pays their employees over a predefined period. It is the price of labour for the contribution to the production of goods and services. Thus, wages can be regarded as anything of value an employer gives an employee in exchange for their services. Wages include salaries, hourly wages, commissions, benefits and bonuses.
There are two categories of wages: nominal and real wages.
Nominal wages: are the amount of money that an employee is paid for the work done. Nominal wages are expressed in terms of pure monetary value.
Real wages: are the wages received by the employees adjusted for the rate of inflation. Real wages show the purchasing power of money. They are meant to guide on how the overall living standards have changed over time.
Therefore, Real wages = nominal wages – inflation
How Wages can be used for analysis
Their levels of disposable income determine the purchasing power of the households. The disposable income is directly proportional to the wages received. Therefore, the amount of wages paid for labour affects not only the quality of life of the households but also economic growth.
Growth in the wages received can be considered as a source of demand. Wages contribute a significant proportion of income for the middle- and low-class households who do not have other sources of income from investments. Assuming no corresponding increase in taxation, an increase in the wages corresponds to an increase in the amount of disposable income. Higher wages also give households the capacity to borrow more from financial institutions at competitive rates. The cheaper loans significantly contribute to increased aggregate demand. In this case, more goods and services will be demanded. The increase in aggregate demand compels producers to increase their scale of production to match the supply and demand. Consequently, the employment levels increase while the economy expands.
Source: St. Louis FRED
Conversely, decreasing wage growth implies that a decrease in disposable income. A reduction in the aggregate demand and supply will follow. Producers will be forced to scale back their operations, increasing the unemployment rate and consequently a slow-down in the economic growth.
Investments and savings rate rise with the growth in wages. These investments create employment opportunities and spur innovation within the economy. Contrary to this, the decrease in wages forces households to prioritise consumption over investments and saving. The resultant effect is fewer new job opportunities and stifled innovation. As can be seen, changes in the level of wages have a multiplier effect on the economy.
A rise in the rate of inflation is primarily driven by a disproportionate increase in demand driven by a rise in wages. Rising wages lead to a wage push inflation. This particular type of inflation is a result of an increase in prices of goods and services by producers to maintain corporate profits after an increase in the wages. Furthermore, since the responsiveness of supply to an increase in demand is not instant, increasing wages results in inflation since more money will be chasing the same amount of goods.
Impact of Wages on Currency
Forex traders monitor the fundamental indicators to gauge economic growth and speculate on the central banks’ policies. Central banks set their average inflation targets which guide their monetary policies. In the US, the inflation rate target is 2%.
When the wages increase, it forestalls a growth in the economy due to increased investments, aggregate demand and supply. An increase in employment levels also accompanies it. Since the value of a country’s currency is directly proportionate to its economic performance and outlook, wages growth leads to the appreciation of the currency. More so, consistent growth in wages is accompanied by wage push inflation. To keep this inflation under control, the central banks may implement contractionary policies to increase the cost of borrowing money and encourage savings and investments. These policies appreciate the currency.
A decrease in wages implies that the economy could be contracting due to declining aggregate demand and supply within the economy. If the central banks fear that this might result in a recession, they will implement expansionary monetary policies such as lowering interest rates. These policies tend to depreciate the currency.
Sources of Data
This analysis will focus on Australian wages. The comprehensive indicator of wages is Australian Wage Price Index which measures Wages, salaries, and other earnings, corrected for inflation overtime to produce a measure of actual changes in purchasing power. Thus, it measures the change in the price businesses, and the government pay for labour, excluding bonuses.
The real earnings data is released quarterly by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The statistics can be accessed here.
Statistics on the global wages by country can be accessed at Trading Economics.
How Real Earnings Data Release Affects The Forex Price Charts
The most recent real earnings data in Australia was released on August 12, 2020, at 1.30 AM GMT. A summary review of the data release can be accessed at the Australian Bureau of Statistics website. The screengrab below is of the monthly real earnings from Investing.com.
As can be seen, the release of the real earnings data is expected to have a moderate volatility impact on the AUD
The screengrab below shows the most recent change in the Australian wage price index. In the second quarter of 2020, the wage price index grew by 0.2%. This growth is slower than the 0.5% increase in the first quarter of 2020. More so, the change in the second quarter was lower than analysts’ expectations of a 0.3% increase.
In theory, this improvement should lead to depreciation of the AUD relative to other currencies.
Now, let’s see how this release made an impact on the Forex price charts of a few selected pairs
AUD/USD: Before the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release on August 12, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
From the above 15-minute chart of AUD/USD, the pair can be seen trading in a subdued downtrend before the data release. This trend is evidenced by candles forming just below an almost flattening 20-period Moving Average.
AUD/USD: After the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release
After the data release, the pair formed a long 15-minute bearish candle indicating the weakening of the AUD as expected. The weak wages price index data resulted in the selloff of the AUD, which led to the pair adopting a steady trend. This downtrend is shown by the steeply falling the 20-period MA with subsequent candles forming further below it.
Now let’s see how this news release impacted other major currency pairs.
GBP/AUD: Before the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release on August 12, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
The GBP/AUD pair traded in a neutral trend before the wages data release. As shown above, the 15-minute candles are forming just around an already flat 20-period MA. This trend indicates that traders were inactive waiting for the data release.
GBP/AUD: After the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release
As expected, the GBP/AUD pair formed a long 15-minute bullish candle indicating the selloff of the AUD due to the weaker than expected data. Subsequently, the pair adopted a bullish trend as the 20-period MA steadily rising with candles forming further above it.
EUR/AUD: Before the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release on August 12, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
EUR/AUD: After the Wage Price Index QoQ Data Release
The EUR/AUD pair traded in a similar neutral pattern as the GBP/AUD pair before the wages data release. 15-minute candles can be seen forming just around a flattened 20-period MA. Similar to the GBP/AUD pair, the EUR/AUD formed a long 15-minute bullish candle immediately after the wages data release. Subsequently, the pair adopted a strong bullish trend as the 20-period MA rose steeply with candles forming further above it.
From the above analyses, it is evident that the wages data has a significant effect on price action. Although the wage price index is categorised as a medium-impact indicator, its impact was amplified by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The worse than expected wages data indicated that the Australian labour industry is yet to recover from the economic shocks of Covid-19.
Therefore, traders should avoid having significant positions open with pairs involving the AUD before the release of the quarterly wage price index.