RBA halts hiking cycle

RBA Phil Lowe interest rates

4 April 2023
| By Charbel Kadib |
image
image
expand image

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) monetary policy board has held the official cash rate at 3.6 per
cent — ending a 10-month-long hiking cycle, which commenced in May 2022.

Markets had anticipated the pause with the ASX’s RBA Rate Indicator suggesting a hold was all but certain.

However, analysts and economists were split, with many, including major banks, projecting an additional 25bps increase, taking the cash rate to 3.85 per cent.

NAB’s head of market economics, Tapas Strickland, said a hike would have been “justified” but conceded it was a “line ball decision”.

“The risk is the RBA pauses and retains a hiking bias, preferring to err on the side of a more protracted battle against inflation until or unless its hand is forced by the data,” he said.

The most recent consumer price index (CPI) suggested the economy had entered a disinflationary period, with annualised inflation falling for the second consecutive month — down from 7.4 per cent in January to 6.8 per cent in February. 

As at February 2023, annualised inflation was 1.6 per cent lower than the peak of 8.4 per cent in December 2022. 

Retail sales also grew just 0.2 per cent in February, down from a 1.8 per cent rise in January, providing further evidence of weakening consumer sentiment. 

Moreover, wages grew just 0.8 per cent in the three months to 31 December, slowing from 1.1 per cent in the previous quarter and falling below market expectations of a 1 per cent rise. 

This coincided with weakness in aggregate economic activity, with GDP growth slowing to 0.5 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2022 — below market expectations of 0.8 per cent.

However, labour market conditions remain strong, with the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate falling from 3.7 per cent in January to 3.5 per cent in February. 

Business conditions have also withstood market volatility, with NAB’s monthly business survey suggesting business conditions remain well above the long-run average. 

While local economic indicators were mixed, instability in the global banking system supported the case for a pause. 

In the month proceeding the RBA’s last monetary policy call, three US banks collapsed and Swiss giant Credit Suisse accepted a forced takeover from local competitor UBS.

The banking failures were largely attributed to poor liquidity management exposed by aggressive monetary policy tightening.

But even before instability in the banking system came to the fore, RBA governor Philip Lowe hinted at a looming pause to the cash rate.

“We are closer to a pause and it’s a matter of logic really, as you increase interest rates higher you get closer to the point where it is appropriate just to stop for a while and just assess the flow of data,” he told the AFR Business Summit on 8 March. 

“We’ve done a lot in a short period of time and at some point, it’s going to be appropriate to sit still and assess the collective effects of that.”

Lowe was set to present a speech on 5 April to shed light on the central bank’s monetary policy strategy.

Read more about:

AUTHOR

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Recommended for you

 
sub-bgsidebar subscription

Never miss the latest news and developments in wealth management industry

 

MARKET INSIGHTS

Old Fella

Of course a survey commissioned by an adviser coaching business would find that having an external business coach is a k...

9 hours ago
One foot out the door

A financial planner is expected to earn between $95,000 and $120,000 per year, depending on the state. Really? I don't...

19 hours ago
JOHN GILLIES

The whole thing is a bit frightening especially the last note where notes on what might be done could result in the need...

1 day 15 hours ago

ASIC has cancelled the AFS licence of a Sydney wealth firm, the fifth Sydney firm to see a cancellation since the start of the year....

1 week 6 days ago

A former financial adviser has been banned by ASIC from providing financial services for inappropriate advice, among multiple breaches....

4 weeks ago

More than 20 winners from the funds management industry have been crowned at this year’s awards....

6 days 17 hours ago

TOP PERFORMING FUNDS

ACS FIXED INT - AUSTRALIA/GLOBAL BOND