Rising house prices recognised in April RBA minutes: Westpac's Bill Evans

The Governor’s Statement following the April Board meeting is as expected

Rising house prices recognised in April RBA minutes: Westpac's Bill Evans
Rising house prices recognised in April RBA minutes: Westpac's Bill Evans

As expected the Board of the Reserve Bank maintained its current policy settings, including the targets of 10 basis points for the cash rate and the yield on the 3 year Australian Government bond, as well as the parameters of the Term Funding Facility and the government bond purchase program.

Since the last Board meeting on March 2 the most important economic developments have been the announcement of the surprise fall in the unemployment rate from 6.4% in January to 5.8% in February and reports of extraordinary strength in the national housing market.

The unemployment report has prompted only a minor change in the Governor’s rhetoric from “the economy is still operating with considerable spare capacity and the unemployment rate remains higher than it has been for some years” (March) to “the economy is operating with considerable spare capacity and unemployment is still too high.” (April).

The key sentiments from March are repeated, “it will take some time to reduce this spare capacity and for the labour market to be tight enough to generate wage increases that are consistent with achieving the inflation target” and “wage and price pressures are subdued and are expected to remain so for some years.”

Rising house prices are recognised, “prices rising in most markets.” But the same approach we saw in March is adopted where lending standards are emphasised, “the Bank will be monitoring trends in housing borrowing carefully and it is important that lending standards are maintained.”

Importantly the Governor points out that “investor credit growth remains subdued.”

It is interesting that he did not comment, at this stage, on the recent trend for new lending for housing. In February new lending for investors lifted by 4.5% in the month compared to -0.8% for “upgraders” and -4% for First Home Buyers.

In fact the six month growth rate for new investor finance approvals (31%) is now above the upgraders’ rate (24%) and First Home Buyers (30%). No doubt the Board will be watching these trends very closely.

The commitment to the 3 year bond rate target at 0.1% was confirmed and it was noted that “The Board remains committed to the 3 year government bond yield target of 10 basis points” while noting that “Later in the year it will consider whether to retain the April 2024 bond as the target bond or to shift to the next maturity.” That would be the November 2024 bond – a likely decision which would be supported by the consistent observation that “the Board does not expect these conditions (necessary to increase the cash rate) to be met until 2024 at the earliest.”

Insisting that it will be 2024 “at the earliest” is not consistent with restricting the target bond to an April 2024 maturity.

As with March the Governor remains supportive of the bond purchase program, “the Bank is prepared to undertake further bond purchases if doing so would assist with progress towards the goals of full employment and inflation.” Note that in the March Statement the Governor indicated his preparedness to extend the policy “if necessary” – the April sentiment seems even more supportive of the bond buying approach.

Since the March Board meeting the AUD has fallen by around US 1.5c but there is no indication of “job done” with respect to the bond buying program which is directly aimed at lowering the AUD (recall that Assistant Governor, Financial Markets, Chris Kent recently estimated that the QE program had lowered the AUD by up to 5%).


Westpac recently confirmed its views that the Bank will extend the new $100 billion bond purchasing program (which is set to begin next week) with a further $100 billion when the new program concludes in the week ending August 27.

However, we expect that the new program which we expect to begin in the following week will be at a slightly slower pace ($4 billion in purchases rather than $5 billion) so that it can extend into early March. Maintaining the $5 billion pace for the next program would see it concluding in late January requiring the Bank to make an announcement about any future program at the December Board meeting.

We expect that the Board will decide to taper the following program to $50 billion but such a decision will be better made at the February 2022 Board meeting rather than in December when much more information, including the intentions of the Federal Reserve, might be available.

Consistent with the tapering decision we also expect that, having extended the Yield Curve Control policy to target the November 2024 bond, the Board will announce that it is not extending Yield Curve Control beyond the November bond, making the February 2022 Board meeting an important milestone in the Bank’s long road to normalising policy.

Bill Evans is the chief economist at Westpac.

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