Australian interest rates

Australian interest rates are set by the Reserve Bank of Australia, an independent body established in 1959. It is guided by an inflation targeting regime that seeks price stability in the 2-3% consumer price index band. The RBA originally also governed prudential policy but following several large scandals and bankruptcies in the late 1990s that role was separated into a discrete entity titled the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

The RBA is widely well-regarded despite a recent history of buried corruption allegations and a board of business rent seekers that, in more ethical nations, would not have their hands anywhere near monetary policy levers.

In 1990, Australian interest rates were set at 17.5%. But during the Great Moderation, interest rates consistently fell alongside inflation and oscillated in a band between 1.5% and 7.5%.

Owing to an endowment of resources that proved very attractive to China during the Global Financial Crisis, Australian interest rates did not fall to the lows experienced in other developed markets. Indeed, Australia was the first developed market to raise interest after the crisis though it has subsequently had to lower them again as the commodity boom subsided.

During the 2000s, Australian interest rates began to be influenced by external economic pressures much more than previously. This process was driven by the huge offshore borrowing of Australia’s big four banks in wholesale markets. As their offshore liabilities ballooned, the banks were increasingly exposed to the vicissitudes of far flung markets and investors. This reached a head in the global financial crisis of 2008 when banks faced much higher demands from offshore investors for better risk-adjusted returns, forcing them to break with the Australian cash rate in setting local interest rates.

Ever since, Australian bank have regularly adjusted lending and deposit interest rates unilaterally and independently around the cash rate set by the RBA. These interest rates moves were a constant source of political friction as politicians sought to protect the Australian property bubble.

In 2015, Australian interest rate policy was forced to return to a defacto shared responsibility arrangement between the RBA and APRA. With the lowest interest rates in fifty years, the Australian property bubble inflated to new dimensions even as a global yield trade drove up the value of the Australian dollar, threatening economic growth. Eventually the solution found was to apply macroprudential policy to some mortgage lending so that interest rates could be lowered to take pressure off the currency.

MacroBusiness was the most accurate forecaster on Australia interest rates in the market from 2011 forward. It predicted both the turn in rates downwards in 2011 and has had the most dovish outlook ever since. It also lead the debate around, and implementation of, macroprudential tools in 2014. MacroBusiness covers all apposite data and wider analysis of these issues daily.

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Dovish RBA realises its ‘pushing on a string’

Dovish RBA minutes out just now: International Economic Conditions Members commenced their discussion by noting that the slower pace of global economic activity had continued in recent months. This had been particularly evident in the manufacturing sector. Survey measures of conditions in the manufacturing sector had declined across a range of economies, although they had

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CLSA: Banks won’t cut mortgage rates

CLSA’s excellent Brian Johnston is on the money here: Veteran CLSA bank analyst Brian Johnson said while funding costs had fallen, margins were still under pressure due to increased costs as investors coming to the end of their interest-only periods are forced to switch mortgage products to pay off both the principal and interest. Switching

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RBA confirms Chris Joye’s big short

The new RBA Financial Stability Review is out and brimming with anxiety: Risks to the household sector have increased over the past six months given weak housing market conditions. Housing prices have fallen significantly in Sydney and Melbourne after the earlier large run-up in prices, while in Perth and other miningexposed regions, prices have been

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Why do central banks always miss the cyclical turn?

Via the excellent Damien Boey at Credit Suisse: In recent times, we have seen a number of central bankers attempt to jawbone the yield curve steeper, or at least, downplay the significance of flat-to-inverted curves. And all have failed: RBA Deputy Governor Debelle suggested that 10-year bond yields are artificially low relative to terminal rate

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Full house lunatics: RBA deputy governor goes under deflation bus

We’ve seen suicide bombings by Ian Harper, Phil Lowe, Christopher Kent, Michelle Bullock, Luci Ellis and today it is Guy Debelle: Thank you very much to AmCham for giving me the opportunity to speak in my home town of Adelaide. Today I am going to discuss the Bank’s assessment of the current economic situation both in

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How corrupt regulators helped banks capture the Hayne RC

Via The Australian: O’Sullivan’s commission could do irreparable damage to the financial system. Everybody’s job, everybody’s mortgage, every loan to every business in the country was dependent on the strength and credibility of the financial system, they said, and O’Sullivan was about to lift the lid on a Pandora’s box. With the help of a

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IMF hits Aussie house price crash panic button

Via the AFR comes the IMF in an unusual break with the tradition of agreeing with whatever the locals say: Australia’s housing market contraction is worse than first thought, says a top IMF analyst, leaving the economy in what he called a “delicate situation” that boosts the need for faster infrastructure spending and even potential interest

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UBS: Weak fiscal triggers bigger rate cuts

Via UBS: Implications: smaller than expected stimulus raises risk of early/more RBA cuts Overall, as we flagged, the Budget improved modestly due to higher commodities & fiscal conservatism, with the surplus profile supporting the AAA. Household tax cuts & handouts were much smaller than expected; while infrastructure & public demand slow sharply. With credit tightening

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Bill Evans: RBA readying rate cuts

Via Bill Evans at Westpac: As expected, the Reserve Bank Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50%. However, our research shows that there has been a very significant change in the Governor’s Statement for this month. Recall that Governor Lowe has not changed monetary policy since he became Governor in September 2016.

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RBA sticks to neutral script

The Reserve Bank of Australia is out with its latest policy decision and the word is At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50 per cent. The outlook for the global economy remains reasonable, although growth has slowed and downside risks have increased. Growth in international trade has declined and

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Lunatic shadow RBA stills wants hikes

It’s like herding cats! From the lunatic Shadow: Australia’s economy, in spite of its relatively low unemployment rate of 4.9%, is showing sign of weakness. CPI inflation, most recently equal to 1.8% in the December quarter, remains below the Reserve Bank of Australia’s official target band of 2-3%. Consumer and business confidence measures are softening,

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Banks to pass on full rate cuts…April fool!

Straight from the horse’s mouth, via Chanticleer: …up in Hong Kong, as least one of the Big Four was making it very clear that full pass-through was unlikely; the bank was keen that investors particularly understood that deposit rates at zero gave it very little room to move. If we assume that somewhere between 10

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Lunatic RBA to follow RBNZ doves next week?

Says ANZ: We expect no change to RBA policy as the labour market remains strong. The tone will likely remain cautious, however, owing to risks associated with housing, credit conditions and labour market expectations. Risks remain balanced as strong unemployment data have been offset by the weaker 4Q GDP and soft leading indicators The government

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UBS: “Calling the end of the household super leverage cycle”

Via UBS’s excellent George Theranou: Households are still leveraging. Even though household liabilities growth dropped to a >5-year low of 4.2% y/y, because nominal income growth collapsed even more to just 2.0% y/y, the household debt-to-liabilities ratio lifted to a record high of 199% in Q4- 18. However, mainly due to falling house prices, household