RBA a bit more realistic on the property market: Shane Oliver

RBA a bit more realistic on the property market: Shane Oliver
RBA a bit more realistic on the property market: Shane Oliver

GUEST OBSERVER

With no major economic developments in the last month, September quarter inflation due later this month and new Governor Philip Lowe at the helm presumably wanting to demonstrate a degree of policy continuity it was no surprise to see the Reserve Bank of Australia leave rates on hold at 1.5 percent at its October meeting. 

While Philip Lowe did make a few changes to the RBA’s post meeting Statement these don’t appear to signal any major changes in the RBA’s economic forecasts. In short the RBA continues to see the global economy continuing to grow at a below average pace, financial markets functioning effectively, the Australian economy continuing to growth, inflation expected to remain low and an appreciating $A complicating the adjustment in the economy. 

Two areas where there were more substantial changes in commentary were in relation to the labour market and the housing market. In terms of the labour market the RBA has highlighted significant variation across the country  in jobs growth and the divergence between part time and full time employment but seems reasonably relaxed about the employment outlook. 

On the housing market the RBA remains relatively sanguine but has acknowledged a strengthening in some markets recently (presumably Sydney and Melbourne), suggesting that it may be becoming a bit less relaxed.

The RBA seems to remain comfortable in waiting for the surge in apartment supply to cool property prices. Given the recent rebound in auction clearance rates, Sydney and Melbourne property prices continuing to growth solidly after huge gains over the last four years (6 percent in Sydney, 40 percent in Melbourne) and the risk that the apartment building boom will go way beyond the point of being healthy, my view remains that the RBA is a bit too relaxed about home prices and at least a bit of “jawboning” would be appropriate at present.

The fact that the RBA did not repeat its July meeting reference to upcoming inflation data – with September quarter inflation data due later this month – suggests that unlike in July its bias on interest rates is neutral.

However, we remain of the view that the RBA will cut rates again at its November meeting when it reviews its economic forecasts after the release of the September quarter inflation data in late October. The near term risks to inflation are on the downside thanks to competitive pressures globally and record low wages growth domestically and the $A is still too high and at risk of further appreciation given the Fed’s endless delays in raising rates again.

However, with economic growth holding up very well, commodity prices and national income looking like it has bottomed and the new Governor perhaps preferring a period of stability, this is a close call and is critically dependent on seeing a lower than expected September quarter inflation result. Either way a cut in the cash rate to 1 percent or below and the adoption of quantitative easing remains very unlikely in Australia.

SHANE OLIVER is head of investment strategy and economics and chief economist at AMP Capital and is responsible for AMP Capital's diversified investment funds.

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Rba Rate Decision Amp Capital

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