RBA keeps rates on hold for record 20th consecutive meeting

RBA keeps rates on hold for record 20th consecutive meeting
RBA keeps rates on hold for record 20th consecutive meeting

The fifth meeting of the Reserve Bank of Australia for 2018 saw no change in the official cash rate.

The central bank's last move saw it go to 1.5 percent at the August 2016 meeting, so rates have been held steady for 20 meetings.

It was 21 meetings ago that they last came down. 

Almost every economist predicted another hold.

CoreLogic's head of research Tim Lawless said the weakness in the Australian economy meant the rate hold came at no surprise.

"The rate hold is of little surprise given some of the underlying weaknesses still prevalent in the Australian economy; a 0.4% decline in the Australian housing market in the year to May, weak wages growth (2.1%), high underemployment (8.3%) and core inflation at the lower bound of the RBA target range (2.0%)," Lawless said.

"Financial markets are not fully pricing in a rate hike until October 2019. That is despite the latest RBA forecasts suggesting headline inflation will reach 2.25% by the end of this year and unemployment will fall to 5.25%.  From a housing market perspective, a stable rate environment is positive. However, there is risk that mortgage rates could rise, regardless of the steady cash rate, due to higher funding costs being faced by lenders overseas. 

'"At the end of May, standard variable mortgage rates for owner occupiers remained at their lowest level since 1965, averaging 5.2% and the average discounted rate is tracking even lower at 4.5%. The average three year fixed rate is lower yet again at 4.15%.  Even if mortgage rates do rise, they are still well below the twenty year average of 6.8%.  

"Despite mortgage rates being low, activity in the housing market has slowed since 2015. CoreLogic’s latest estimates indicate the number of settled residential property sales is down 7.7% year on year and transaction numbers are 15.1% lower relative to the recent 2015 peak.  Although interest rates are set to remain on hold for the time being, the availability of housing credit has tightened substantially, which is the primary driver of slower housing market activity and falling home values. 

"The latest figures on housing credit show the monthly rate of growth, at 0.43% is the lowest since June 2013, dragged down mostly by less lending for investment purposes.  Credit policies are likely to remain tight, if not even tighter, with APRA advising lenders to focus more on reducing their exposure to high debt to income loans.

"As a result, we expect housing market conditions to continue their slow decline, at least from a macro perspective.  Since peaking in November last year, national dwelling values are down 1.1%. There are exceptions to this national picture, with dwelling values in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart at record highs.

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson is a property journalist based in Sydney. Joel has been writing about the residential real estate market for the last five years, specializing in market trends and the economics and finance behind buying and selling real estate.

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