Another cut to help stoke inflation: HSBC's Paul Bloxham

Another cut to help stoke inflation: HSBC's Paul Bloxham
Another cut to help stoke inflation: HSBC's Paul Bloxham

GUEST OBSERVER

The RBA cut its cash rate by 25bp to 1.50 percent, in line with the market and HSBC's expectations.

Although growth is holding up well, inflation is too low. The RBA noted that 'prospects for sustainable growth in the economy, with inflation returning to target over time, would be improved by easing monetary policy at this meeting'.

The statement provided little forward guidance, beyond noting that inflation was expected to remain low for 'some time'. We expect the RBA to now spend the next few months noting that they are waiting to see the full effect of the 50bp of cuts that they have delivered this year.

Looking further out, we see wages growth and local inflation gradually lifting, as the rebalancing act comes to its end (around mid-2017, in our view). We see the RBA on hold in coming quarters, rather than cutting further.

Facts

The RBA cut its cash rate to 1.50 percent today as expected by 20 of 25 economists surveyed in the Bloomberg survey, including HSBC. Just prior to the decision the market was pricing a 72 percent chance of a 25bp cut.

Implications

The RBA cut its cash rate to a new record low of 1.50 percent, driven by concerns about inflation being too low. Although growth has been solid, underlying inflation is below the bottom edge of the RBA's 2-3 percent target band and the balance of risks is for further low inflation to continue.

In the RBA's post-meeting statement, they described the rebalancing of growth that is underway, suggesting that 'overall growth is continuing at a moderate pace, despite a very large decline in business investment' and noted that 'other areas of domestic demand, as well as exports, have been expanding at a pace at or above trend'. However, this has, so far, not generated enough price pressure to keep inflation on target.

With inflation low, there was little standing in the way of the RBA cutting its cash rate further to support more growth and help to return inflation to target sooner than otherwise. Although the RBA could have argued that the inflation target is 'flexible' and allows for inflation to be below (or above) target for periods of time, they were clearly sufficiently concerned about the low level of inflation to cut further nonetheless.

Later this week the RBA will publish its quarterly official statement, which will provide more detail on the motivation for today's cut and set out a new set of forecasts. We expect the growth and inflation forecasts to be largely unchanged from May, with growth expected to a bit above trend over the forecast horizon and inflation expected to gradually lift back to target.

Over the next few months, we expect the RBA to shift its post-board meeting commentary to noting that they are waiting to see the full effect of the 50bp of cuts they have already delivered this year. We expect them to maintain this rhetorical tactic for the rest of this year. We see the next live meeting as likely to be February 2017, barring any significant surprises.

Looking further out, we see wages growth and local inflation gradually lifting, as the rebalancing act comes to its end. In our view, a key driver of the low inflation in Australia has been the rebalancing of growth following the end of the mining boom. As a result, we see inflation as likely to pick-up when the rebalancing act is complete, which we forecast to be around mid-2017. For more detail on this view see: 'Australia's low inflation: It's a part of the rebalancing act', 13 July 2016.

Of course, our view also relies on a few global factors. In particular: that commodity prices are past the trough; that China's growth remains solid and supports demand for Australia's services exports; and, that the Federal Reserve's next move is to lift rates (our US economist is expecting the next hike in Q2 2017). 

 PAUL BLOXHAM IS CHIEF ECONOMIST (AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND) FOR HSBC. 

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