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.


Pascometer burns red on rate cut

The strobe on the Pascometer is flashing again. Yesterday afternoon a parade of Australia’s best commentators  joined the call for an August rate cut. But the most convincing signal for a cut was the Pascometer‘s counter-contrarian position that the RBA will hold with gusto: I’ve previously already argued the subtle mix of “on one hand,


Bassanese bears-up on rates

For all you MSM optimists out there, I suggest a strong dose of David Bassanese at the AFR today. After a flirtation with bullish housing forecasts earlier this year, Bassanese is now leading the MSM interest rate debate by following MB. He notes today the key change in this week’s RBA minutes: …In the July


RBA minutes finger dollar

The June RBA minutes are out and show the Bank is firmly fixed upon the dollar and the role of USQE in its valuation. Other points to observe include that there has been a deterioration in general business conditions since the last meeting and that the Bank seems to be slowly nosing its way to


ANZ reverses rate cut on bad joke

Humour giveth and humour taketh away: ANZ RATE VIEW: REVERTING TO PREVIOUS FORECAST. NEXT RATE CUT NOT UNTIL LATER IN 2013 Yesterday’s off-the-cuff humour by the Reserve Bank Governor played an important role in our change of view about the probability of an August easing of monetary policy by the Bank. Following confirmation that this


ANZ adds more rate cuts

From the ANZ late yesterday: ANZ CHANGES RATES CALL TO A 25BP CUT IN AUGUST. CASH RATE SEEN AT 2.25% IN Q4 2013 WITH BIAS TO STILL LOWER RATES ANZ now expects the RBA to lower the cash rate by 25bps to 2.50% at its August Board meeting unless the Australian dollar (AUD) falls sharply


Glenn Stevens hails the cautious consumer

Glenn Stevens has delivered his first speech in some time this afternoon and it’s an elegant defense of post-GFC RBA policy. In particular his recognition that Australian growth potential has fallen as private sector borrowing has stabilised at more sustainable levels is welcome. This implies that the RBA may be comfortable with lower growth into


Wait for it…Shadow RBA says “hold”

The Shadow RBA is out with it’s monthly “hold” call. I prodded this body last month to aim for something a little more innovative, alas, no such luck. If anything the body has become more conservative, failing to discuss the issue of potential tradable inflation, alternative monetary tools, the mining investment cliff, China’s prospects or


Will the RBA hike rates?

Tomorrow’s RBA meeting is a no-brainer hold. Following Thursday’s Pascometer alert that the low is in, the Australian dollar got smashed to a new low on Friday evening and looks to be headed under 91 cents in short order. That will be enough to keep the RBA on the sidelines tomorrow. Not that it should


The RBA thinks it’s done cutting

The RBA yesterday made a subtle change to its post meeting statement that’s been missed.  In statements before last month’s cut it has said the following: The inflation outlook, as assessed at present, would afford scope to ease policy further, should that be necessary to support demand. In May it said: The Board has previously


Shadow RBA fail

The persistently hawkish RBA Shadow Board calls for a hold today: Since the RBA dropped the cash rate to 2.75 percent last month the Australian dollar has fallen to below 96 US cents, a depreciation of more than 7 percent against the US dollar. With weaker data coming from China, India and Europe and mixed


Earth to market: Today’s data is bearish

I note that after this morning’s data deluge, interest rate markets have reduced the prospects of an interest rate cut tomorrow from 17% to 14%. Both of these are foolishly low. I note that betting markets are even more skeptical: Here’s a recap of this morning’s data: China non-manufacturing PMI neutral to weak Australian house


Redeem us, yourself, Capt’ Glenn

Australia’s best mainstream economic commentator, Tim Colebatch, wrote a barn burner yesterday afternoon: The resources boom is over, sooner than anyone expected. Capital expenditure in mining essentially peaked in mid-2012, flatlined over the following six months, then plunged steeply in the March quarter, wiping almost $1.5 billion off Australia’s quarterly output. The Bureau of Statistics


Bloxo claims his prize

It’s a good day for Paul Boxham, who has claimed his prize: Australia’s capital expenditure survey was generally more positive than expected. While the actual data for Q113 fell, the survey’s forward estimates held up well. For Q113 the numbers imply a fall in investment of -4.7% (market had +0.5%) and while this will be


A weak dollar will NOT prevent rate cuts

From the AFR comes the next debate about interest rates: A falling dollar should provide an easier environment for domestic businesses as imports become more expensive and exporting grows easier. It may also limit the need for further interest rate cuts. But if Australia’s non-mining sector needs a big push, the Reserve Bank of Australia


MB Radio: Capex and rate cuts

Ahead of this Thursday’s release of the Capex spend data for 1Q 2013, David Llewellyn-Smith spoke with Gunnamatta about the significance of Mining Capex as an Australian economic driver in recent years, why it has started to weaken, and the implications for the Australian economy, moving forward, of a declining Capex spend.