Reserve Bank set for a long wait on sidelines on interest rates: Craig James

Reserve Bank set for a long wait on sidelines on interest rates: Craig James
Reserve Bank set for a long wait on sidelines on interest rates: Craig James


There are a number of ‘hot button’ issues to monitor at present: home prices; inflation, the Aussie dollar and the outlook for the US and the global economy.

So what are the current RBA views?

Well, in typical economist parlance, there is a lot of ‘on the one hand this, on the other hand that’.

For instance: “conditions in the housing market vary considerably around the country”; “Labour market indicators continue to be mixed”; and “the economy is continuing its transition”.

Importantly though, the Reserve Bank remains positive.

The global economy has “improved”; domestic economic growth is forecast around 3%; and headline inflation is tipped to lift to over 2% in 2017.

So while the Reserve Bank is sticking with its “neutral stance”, it clearly won’t be cutting rates anytime soon.

The Reserve Bank has left the cash rate at 1.50%.

The previous rate cut was in August 2016 (25 basis points).

There have now been 12 rate cuts since November 2011, cutting rates from 4.75% to 1.50%.

The Reserve Bank had previously lifted rates seven times from October 2009 to November 2010 – a total of 1.75 percentage points, from 3% to 4.75%.

If the Reserve Bank was to change rates in coming months, the trigger is more likely to emerge from overseas, probably a development from policies adopted by the new US government.

For instance, stimulatory policies could serve to lift the US, and the broader global economy, in turn boosting inflation.

In that event, rate hikes would be more likely in Australia than rate cuts.

Conversely, if the fiscal stimulus doesn’t emerge in the US, rather protectionist actions are advanced, that could serve to restrain global economic growth, stifle inflation pressures and cause Australia’s Reserve Bank to cut rates to protect domestic activity.

Oil prices need to be watched carefully in coming months.

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Reserve Bank set for a long wait on sidelines on interest rates: Craig James

If key oil nations continue to comply with new production targets and support oil prices, then deflationary fears will continue to ease.

Fixed-term interest rates have lifted sharply over the past six months.

But future moves will be dependent on European elections in 2017 as well as US monetary and fiscal policies.

Bank depositors are getting better returns at present, but still returns remain more attractive amongst blue-chip listed companies.

The Reserve Bank will especially watch the following in coming months: US fiscal policy; Chinese economic activity; commodity markets; Australian home prices; inflation expectations; and the local job market.

CommSec expects the Reserve Bank to stay on the interest rate sidelines for the 2017 year.

Craig James is the chief economist at CommSec.

Craig James

Craig James

Craig James is the Chief Economist at CommSec, interpreting ‘big picture’ economic and financial trends.

Interest Rates Craig James

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