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.


RBA moots further easing

The RBA statement today: At its meeting today, the Board decided to: maintain the cash rate target at 10 basis points and the interest rate on Exchange Settlement balances of zero per cent maintain the target of 10 basis points for the April 2024 Australian Government bond continue to purchase government securities at the rate of $5 billion a


RBNZ: House prices “unsustainable”. Tightens macroprudential

Via the RBNZ this morning: The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua – will soon begin consulting on ways to tighten mortgage lending standards, Deputy Governor and General Manager for Financial Stability Geoff Bascand says. The action follows the signing of an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on macro-prudential policy with the Minister


US bonds are the new widowmaker trade

I have pointed out any number of Wall Street strategists that have been wrong about rising US yields this year as they await the inflation boogeyman. They all have their excuses: Bonds were oversold and the recent bid is technical. It’s Delta! It’s Fed buying distorting the market. It’s Japanese selling. So on and so


Big bank specufestor mortgages still contained

If macropriudential moves were not already fading on the interminable Sydney Delta outbreak, today’s APRA data pushes it further from sight. The big eight banks lifted specufestor lending to 0.3% monthly for June (with CBA having its own little party): And still only 1.1% year on year: Then there’s Mad Macquarie as usual: Big eight


Aussie bond curve slaughtered

Stocks may be holding up as Australia sinks into an epic double-dip recession but the bond market is anything but calm. The bid is big and persistent: The curve is being slaughtered: And we’re outpacing offshore leads with negative spreads to the US across the curve Though certainly tracking China. A crushed yield curve should


Why are bond yields plunging?

This is a bit like asking Dracula why there’s a blood shortage but here’s Goldman with its best effort on why bond yields are plunging: Q: The reflation theme in markets seems to be unwinding, led by bonds. What is recent price action signaling about the recovery? A: Since the recent Mid-may highs, both 10y


CBA: RBA Board to reverse bond taper

By Gareth Aird, head of Australian economics at CBA Key Points: The July Board Minutes note that the decision to taper bond purchases from mid‑September was underpinned by the assessment that, “economic outcomes had been materially better than earlier expected and the outlook had improved.” The near term economic outlook has since deteriorated due to


UBS: Aussie CPI to pop and drop

UBS with the note: Q2 CPI forecast revised up: to lift 0.9% q/q & 4.0% y/y, highest since the GFC We sharply revise up our Q2 CPI forecast. Headline is now expected to lift by 0.9% q/q, above our long-held preliminary forecast of 0.6%, and further above the available consensus of ~0.3% (albeit ‘stale’ &


RBA to reverse taper on lockdowns

This feels like a leak: The Sydney lockdown has no end in sight and will need to take cases to zero before being lifted. The RBA will reverse its taper if it continues as economic damage mounts. Sydney accounts for one-quarter of national output and Melbourne is shut as well. If Sydney is not out


Peak stimulus risk to markets

TSLombard with the note: With vaccines curbing the potency of COVID-19, policymakers can begin to unwind their fiscal and monetary support programmes–starting with QE. Central banks’ asset purchases have had only modest effects on GDP and inflation, but they are important for financial markets. While the authorities will avoid a new”taper tantrum”, investors should expect


JPM: The new Fed will bring on a “hard landing”

JPM with the note: Just under a year ago, theFedcompleted its framework re-view and officially changed its monetary policy strategy to a flexible average inflation targeting (FAIT) approach. With the acceleration in inflation since then, PCE inflation now averages 2.0% over the past three years. Incoming months aver-age inflation over this three-year lookback period is


Inflation expectations are bouncing back

Roy Morgan’s inflation expectations survey for June has been released which reports that Australians expected inflation of 4% over the next two years, up 0.3% and the highest Inflation Expectations since the pandemic began. Inflation Expectations are also now 0.8% higher than they were a year ago – the biggest year-over-year increase since the series


ECB includes house prices in inflation measure

Will wonders never cease. Via Goldman: BOTTOM LINE: The Governing Council adopted a 2% inflation target in its strategy review and agreed that owner-occupied housing costs should be reflected in the HICP. Although the target is symmetric, the ECB signals tolerance to temporarily overshoot 2% inflation given the lower bound on interest rates, but does


Phil Lowe: RBA won’t raise rates to cool housing

In the Q&A to yesterday’s speech to the Economic Society of Australia, RBA governor Phil Lowe hosed down speculation that interest rates would be lifted to cool the property market: “I sometimes read commentary that we’ll raise interest rates to choke-off housing prices. And with housing prices rising quickly, the Reserve Bank will raise interest


Were the Fed minutes hawkish?

Goldman with the note: 1. The minutes to the June FOMC meeting reported that “various participants” pulled forward their expectations for the appropriate timing of tapering “in light of incoming data”— presumably a reference to higher inflation given the labor market disappointments of the second quarter. “Participants” also viewed being “well positioned” to taper as


Bond market howls RBA policy error

The media is full of the usual waffle today about tightening monetary policy, rises rates head. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing could be further from the truth. The RBA committed a policy error yesterday that has been called out immediately by the bond market which is the only bourse that understands the sheer magnitude of the


Joye: RBA actually increasing QE

Chris Joye at Coolabah with the note: After months of anticipation, the RBA finally delivered on its third quantitative easing (QE) program. Way back on 5 February 2021, when Coolabah first forecast a $100 billion QE3 program, the notion of a third stanza of QE extending into 2022 was not fashionable amongst economists at the time.


RBA edges into policy error

The RBA just now: At its meeting today, the Board decided to: retain the April 2024 bond as the bond for the yield target and retain the target of 10 basis points continue purchasing government bonds after the completion of the current bond purchase program in early September. These purchases will be at the rate of


Don’t join the policy error, RBA

There are five reasons why the RBA should not tighten monetary policy at all tomorrow. First, commodity prices are going to crash over the next year.  This is already baked in. Current trends in China indicate a renewed structural reform push that includes $1.5tr less new credit this year than last, much of it in


Property investor rebound not enough for macroprudential

APRA monthly banking statistics are out and show that investor mortgages are still some distance from triggering macroprudential tightening. May numbers showed monthly growth slowing as Westpac pulled back though this looks more likely to be  a portfolio adjustment to me: Even so, at just 1% year-on-year growth, investors mortgages from the big eight is


Moody’s: Macroprudential clamps coming to Aussie mortgages

Moody’s with the note: As economic recoveries proceed at different speeds and stages around the globe, there is rising interest about when normalisation of monetary policy will begin. Many central banks have had interest rates sitting at the lower bound since providing unprecedented monetary support at the height of the global pandemic. Normalisation of the