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.


Recessionberg launches bank inquiry into self

It’s never enough bubble for Joshy Recessionberg: The big four banks will be ­officially investigated for their repeated failures to pass on the full extent of central bank rate cuts to consumers under a government-launched probe into home-loan gouging. Josh Frydenberg has directed the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate the pricing of residential


Banker kings move to control RBA and Treasury

Via the AFR: Shayne Elliott, the chief executive of one of the country’s biggest banks, has called on federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to convene a summit to discuss the broader economic implications of zero per cent interest rates and quantitative easing. Mr Elliott, who is the CEO of ANZ Banking Group and chairman of the


Phil Lowe endorses QE to the moon!

From a new report by The BIS’s Committee on the Global Financial System which Phil Lowe chairs: Executive summary Central banks expanded their balance sheets on an unprecedented scale in response to the global financial crisis (GFC) and its aftermath. To address financial market dislocations and the limitations of interest rate policy as rates approached


Aussie bond boom returns

It’s bid-o-rama for the bond rocket again today with yields at record lows across the curve: There has been virtually no curve steepening to speak of with inversion now out past the seven year: The spread to US has bottomed, I reckon, though I can’t see any great compression ahead: More boom to come unless


How much further can bonds rally?

Via Moody’s: Next Recession May Lower 10-year Treasury Yield to Range of 0.5% to 1% Despite today’s ultra-low yields, Treasury bonds may still pay off handsomely once recession strikes. Accordingly, Treasury bond yields are likely to set new multi-decade and possibly new record lows within the next five years. Any claim that the U.S. Treasury


APRA appoints bankers galore to key positions

Apology withdrawn, Wayno, via Banking Day: Under the new structure, each of APRA’s six operating divisions will be led by an executive director, as announced yesterday by APRA chair Wayne Byres. Therese McCarthy Hockey, a 20-year career treasury professional, mostly at Deutsche Bank’s Australian and UK operations, has been appointed as executive director, banking. She


Goldman: MARTIN says $200bn QE needed

Via Goldman’s Andrew Boak who says that the RBA’s automated macro model, MARTIN (formerly known as a “ruler”), suggests that: “Most strikingly, the model suggests the RBA would need to implement a minus 1 per cent cash rate if it wants to achieve its unemployment and inflation goals over its 2-3 year forecast horizon. Assuming


Why the RBA is still cutting

Via Damien Boey at Credit Suisse: We model the slope of the real yield curve – the spread between 10-year inflation-indexed bond yields, and real 3-month interbank rates. We have demonstrated previously that the slope of the real yield curve can be reliably modelled as a function of four factors: Home-buying sentiment. The forward-looking components


NAB replicates specufestor rate cut

At Domain: NAB followed CBA by saying it would cut rates for owner-occupiers and investors paying principal and interest by 0.15 percentage points. It will cut rates on interest-only loans for investors by 0.3 percentage points. As we said in our last quarterly report, interest-only loans have been so de-risked that they are now an


CBA keeps half of RBA cut unless you’re specufesting

It’s all aboard the specufestor train now: In a move that is likely to influence other banks’ pricing, CBA on Tuesday said it would lower rates by 0.13 percentage points for all owner-occupiers and for property investors who are paying principal and interest on their loans. Property investors with interest-only loans will receive the full


RBA cuts again

Via the RBA just now: At its meeting today, the Board decided to lower the cash rate by 25 basis points to 0.75 per cent. While the outlook for the global economy remains reasonable, the risks are tilted to the downside. The US–China trade and technology disputes are affecting international trade flows and investment as businesses scale back


Shadow RBA endorses monetary madness

The broken record screeches again: Australia’s inflation rate, at 1.6% (June quarter), remains well below the Reserve Bank of Australia’s official target range of 2-3%. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.3% in August, while real wage growth remains low at 0.7%. The RBA Shadow Board’s conviction that the cash rate should remain at the


CS: Enough rate cuts already!

Via Damien Boey at Credit Suisse today: Overnight, RBA Governor Lowe gave the strongest indication yet that the Bank is likely to cut rates when it next meets in early October. Notable arguments included: Australian rates being captive to global forces such as a global “saving glut” suppressing global rates, notwithstanding the flexibility of the


ECB mulls MMT

Via Bloomie: European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the Governing Council should be open to ideas such as Modern Monetary Theory, while noting they’re closer to fiscal policy and should be directed by governments. …“These are objectively pretty new ideas,” Draghi said. “They have not been discussed by the Governing Council. We should look


Generalissimo ScoMo orders more mortgages, CBA obliges

The fasco-housing complex is running hard today at the AFR: Scott Morrison says Australia’s banks must not shy away from lending after the Hayne commission as he pushes back against what he calls an “instinctiveness” in society towards responsible lending standards that are too onerous. Speaking to the Australian American Association in New York, the



What will RBA QE look like? UBS has a go at it: The RBA thinks unconventional monetary policy is “unlikely”. But “If growth failed to pick up, and the unemployment rate started rising noticeably, then all arms of public policy would need to address how to combat that… in extremis, unconventional policy measures would need