Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird

Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird
Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird

GUEST OBSERVER

The RBA has broadly left its near-term growth forecasts intact while medium-term projections are unchanged.

Inflation forecasts are untouched and core inflation is expected to gradually rise from here.

The RBA have a soft downward trajectory for the unemployment rate that broadly tracks around 5 3⁄4 percent.

We have the RBA cash rate on hold at 1.5 percent throughout 2017 and into 2018.

The RBA’s updated forecasts havent shifted the monetary policy dial in the slightest. The Bank has forecast decent growth outcomes over the next few years. And while core inflation is not expected to get back to target until 2018, it is forecast to rise gradually.

The RBA is, however, more confident that its forecasts will be achieved. We think that the Bank retains its neutral bias despite there being no forward guidance in today’s Statement on Monetary Policy (SMP).

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Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird

 

Looking at the Bank’s through the year forecasts implies that the pace of growth picks up from 2 percent/pa mid-2017 to an above-trend 3 percent by year end. The economy is forecast to be growing by a strong 3 1⁄4 percent by mid-2018. LNG production, infrastructure spend and a lift in non-mining investment are expected to push growth higher.

The RBA expects LNG exports to add 1⁄2ppt to GDP growth in both 2017 and 2018 in QII. The Bank has indicated that Cyclone Debbie will negatively impact on coal exports. But judging from the RBAs growth forecasts the impact has not been severe enough to revise down GDP estimates. The Australian economy would be deemed to be in good shape if the RBAs growth outcomes can be achieved. While we think they are possible, they look a best case scenario and the risk is that output growth undershoots the Bank’s forecasts. At this stage, QI GDP growth is shaping up as a soft print.

The RBA expects household income to grow, at a similar rate to consumption, implying little change in the household saving ratio.Here we note that the savings rate has been trending lower since dwelling price growth lifted. The fall in the savings rate has supported consumption growth in the face of weak wages growth.

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Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird

 

The Banks assessment on the labour market is best characterised as temperate. The RBA sees employment growth as moderateover the next six months but expects it to pick up to around its long runaverage beyond that. The GDP and employment growth forecasts are reconciled by the big contribution to growth that will come from LNG production which is not labour intensive.

A possible decline in underemployment also explains the disparity between GDP and employment forecasts (i.e. growth in hours worked could be stronger than employment growth if some part-time employees find additional work). The unemployment rate is forecast to be around 5 3⁄4 percent over the forecast period but with a very mild downward trend.

On wages, the RBA expects growth to remain steady over the next year before picking up over 2018 and 2019, although, at a slightly slower pace than had been forecast in February.Inflation forecasts are unchanged from February. Core inflation is expected to rise gradually but is unlikely to get back to target until 2018. We agree.

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Growth and inflation forecasts broadly unchanged: Gareth Aird

 

It sounds like a broken record now, but rate cuts are off the table unless the housing market falters or the unemployment rate materially rises. We think that the inflation prints over 2017 will take a back seat to developments in the labour and housing markets.

As such, our monetary policy call has the RBA on hold in 2017 and well into 2018. The risk, however, lies with another cut given weak wages growth, below target core inflation and an expected further downturn in hard commodity prices. 

Gareth Aird is economist at Commonwealth Bank and can be contacted here.

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Inflation

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