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.


Deluded RBA thinks its can hold

From the RBA minutes: In considering the stance of monetary policy, members discussed the policy decisions made throughout the easing phase since late 2011, during which the cash rate had been lowered in aggregate by 3¼ percentage points. The lower rates had helped support the economy in the transition following the mining investment boom and, more


RBA board beefs up property (mis)representation

Yes, it’s true, from the AFR: Carol Schwartz, a high-profile business woman involved in retail, property and philanthropy, will replace Heather Ridout on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s nine-member board. Ms Schwartz, who sits on the board of property group Stocklands and has held a directorship at Bank of Melbourne and been national president of


MSM enters rate hike hysteria

MSM idiot one: Financial markets are all but ruling out any further interest rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia as the world’s most powerful central bank, the US Federal Reserve, tips it will be lifting rates three times during next year. The Fed’s first rate hike in 12 months comes as investors bet


Yeh, funding Chinese investor mortgages is low risk

From the AFR comes loony money: Real estate financier Qualitas, backed by Carol and Alan Schwartz, has seeded a start-up that allows small investors to offer home loans to Asian buyers shunned by the major banks. Peer Estate, founded by former Qualitas executive Adam Broder and ANZ banking tech expert Phil Aarons, and seeded with Qualitas funding, is an online marketplace where investors can provide


CBA hikes specufestor loans

From The Australian: Commonwealth Bank has shadowed its peers in raising investor interest rates, with the move coming through a strong out-of-rate hike cycle that has largely targeted property investors. In a statement this morning, the nation’s largest bank said its standard variable investment home loan rate would rise seven basis points to 5.56 per


Vimal Gor capitulates on bond long

From the always worthwhile Vimal Gor at BT: There can be no doubt that Trump’s victory will be game changing geopolitically as it will alter the course of established diplomacy. Trump’s policies have also sparked calls for the end of the possible end of 30 year bull market in bonds as it is bringing our


Bill Evans on the RBA

From Bill Evans at Westpac: As expected the Reserve Bank Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50%. With tomorrow’s prospect of a negative print for GDP growth in the September quarter, we were interested in whether that issue would be addressed in the Governor’s statement. To his credit he has done that


RBA holds cash rate at 1.5%

No surprise. Here’s the statement: At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50 per cent. The global economy is continuing to grow, at a lower than average pace. Labour market conditions in the advanced economies have improved over the past year. Economic conditions in China have steadied, supported


Shadow RBA says don’t cut

From the Shadow: The course of the world’s largest economy has become less certain with Donald Trump unexpectedly triumphing in the US Presidential election. On the other side of the Atlantic, Europe is bracing itself for more trouble as it stands by watching Italy hold a referendum on a change to its constitution. Domestically, unemployment


CBA joins rate hike stampede

From the AFR: Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest lender, is increasing rates on fixed term owner occupied and investment loans by up to 65 basis points, the latest of the majors to respond to rising international funding costs caused by the ‘Trump effect’, tougher underwriting standards and tighter rules. The increase means a


Bill Evans begs for no more rate cuts

From Westpac’s Bill Evans: The Reserve Bank Board meets next week on December 6. The Board is certain to keep rates on hold despite the prospect of a weak print for GDP growth in Australia in the September quarter. Westpac’s current estimate is 0.2% – the lowest since March quarter 2011. It appears that the


Warning: Iron ore rate hikes!

So say the OECD, via the AFR: The Reserve Bank of Australia is being urged by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to prepare the nation for official interest rate increases in 2017 to avoid a housing market blowout. Lamenting the Turnbull government’s failure to be more bold on tax reform – including by widening


Aussie bonds price two rate hikes!

The Aussie bond selloff is still going great guns this morning with yields breaking out to new highs across the curve: Unlike the US, the curve is still steepening here too as the bulk bubble persists: With the two year at 1.89bps it is now tilting towards two rates hikes through 2018 now. More selling


Brace for a round of out-of-cycle mortgage rate hikes

From the AFR: Lenders are raising the cost of buying property by up to 60 basis points as the impact of the ‘Trump effect’ and growing expectation that central bankers are set to end the era of record low rates ripples through global markets. Rising costs of funding debt are also widening the competitive gap