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.


Lunatic RBA turns structurally dovish

Via Governor Phil Lowe this afternoon: Inflation Targeting and Economic Welfare It is a great pleasure to address the Anika Foundation lunch for the third time. I would like to start by winding the clock back, not by three years, but instead by 40 years. It was 40 years ago that I started studying economics in high


Aussie bond rocket relaunches

It’s back. Right across the curve the Aussie bond rocket is half a bee’s appendage from record low yields: The curve trending towards deeper inversion at the short end no steepening of significance at the long: The spread to the US is widening with the long end back to records: Breakout appears imminent so long


Kouk claims Lunatic RBA scalp

From the Kouk: The Reserve Bank of Australia needs to be congratulated for publishing research which implicitly confirms that it made a mistake when setting monetary policy in the period mid-2017 to early 2019. Not that the research explicitly says that, but the RBA Discussion Paper, Cost-benefit Analysis of Leaning Against the Wind, written by


Recessionberg applies CPR to dead man Byers

Deary, deary me. They’ve all lived such lives of entitlement that really don’t know anything about public service at all. It’s all about drawing a preposterously large salary, which undermines the culture of public service in the first place, and then protecting it ahead of the public interest. To wit, the AFR’s conservative attack dog,


Is corrupt APRA preparing the next round of macroprudential?

It had better be. The last time Australia found itself coming out of a housing correction in 2011, MB warned that APRA should tighten macroprudential policy. Instead it waited five years and the rest is bubble history. In part APRA was slowed by the Lunatic RBA which very unwisely campaigned against macroprudential for years. This


Kenneth Hayne signs Wayne Byers death warrant

Wayne Byers must resign, at the AFR today: Kenneth Hayne, who spearheaded the royal commission into the financial services sector, has come out and publicly backed all the recommendations in the APRA capability review and says it is consistent with his own final report. …Hayne’s endorsement of the capability review into APRA, which was released


Centre Alliance: Wayne Byers must resign

Contemporary Australian governance is all about diffused responsibility. Rule one in this new public disorder is to pretend to reform by instructing the demonstrably failed to do it right. It’s virtue signalling writ large that changes nothing while protecting your arse. To wit. Josh Recessionberg, who stupidly reappointed APRA chairman Wayne Byers before he got


RBA and ScoMo are at loggerheads over the bubble

Via Domain: Billions of dollars of congestion-easing infrastructure projects that could boost the economy and increase safety are stuck years down the track as the Reserve Bank of Australia calls on the Morrison government to do more. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison promises to pull forward some infrastructure projects, an analysis of the federal budget


Wayne Byers is no longer tenable

Chanticleer is expressing public doubts as besieged APRA chairman Wayne Byers couldn’t even front cameras yesterday, preferring a teleconference from his fortress of solitude: This tight control of the dissemination of information and the strategic decision to avoid the nightly news sits oddly with the firm advice in the capability review for APRA to engage


Capital Economics: RBA to cut to -50bps

Via Capital Economics chief economist Marcel Thieliant: Mr Thielant’s central scenario is that cutting interest rates to 0.5 per cent will be sufficient to restore growth and eventually return underlying inflation to the RBA’s target but if more stimulus were required, he says he is concerned that the government would probably remain reluctant to loosen


APRA staff: Management is captured

At the AFR come stunning leaks from APRA staff via its internal review: “When institutions are consistently able to get a different result by appealing to GM levels and above, line supervisors become demoralised and institutions become emboldened to push the limits,” one employee said. …One employee speaking under the protection of anonymity said the


RBA foghorn: Lowe bullying Recessionberg, not other way around

Interesting from RBA foghorn Terry Mccrann today: Any suggestion that Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe compromised his or the RBA’s independence with his ‘meet and quote’ with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last week is just silly and quite simply doesn’t square with the facts. Very obviously, Lowe hasn’t needed to be bullied by a politician into


Wayne Byers must resign immediately

Obviously enough. Via the ABC: An independent review is urging the overhaul of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), slamming it for a poor culture and variable leadership. In a proposed shake-up of the often secretive regulator, a three member panel chaired by former ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said change was needed. “APRA appears to


Lunatic RBA: Rate cut for spending not speculation

June rantings from the Lunatic: International Economic Conditions Members commenced their discussion by noting that growth in the global economy had remained moderate over preceding months. Global trade and manufacturing activity had slowed over the preceding year. Trade tensions had remained elevated, although no new measures had been introduced since the previous meeting. In China,


RBNZ is a litmus test of Australian monetary failure

As we know, the superb RBNZ has fully integrated monetary and macroprudential policy tools, a creative leadership and national interest values. This enables 300 staff to conduct all of the functions that Australia’s combined monetary regulators fail to do with 1,400. It uses big and dumb rules to govern financial stability, the cash rate when


Pascometer redlines on Lunatic RBA

Weeoo, weeoo, weeoo. The Pascometer has redlined on the Lunatic RBA: The body language was not as excruciatingly embarrassing as when Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne was forced into a photo opportunity with the Treasurer, but the Reserve Bank Governor’s comments of “support” for the government weren’t far behind. What a painful two-hour meeting it must