Next cash rate hike forecast missing from RBA minutes: Westpac's Andrew Hanlan

Next cash rate hike forecast missing from RBA minutes: Westpac's Andrew Hanlan
Next cash rate hike forecast missing from RBA minutes: Westpac's Andrew Hanlan


Broad themes and tone of the Minutes are consistent with earlier statements by the RBA.

The RBA still anticipates that the next move in rates is likely to be up, as stated by the Governor on June 13, but this phrase has been omitted from these Minutes.

The broad themes and tone of the Minutes of the June Board meeting were consistent with earlier statements from the RBA.

The final paragraph in the Considerations for Monetary Policy section was along the lines of the corresponding paragraph in the Decision Statement by the Governor following the June meeting. The key sentence is: “Further progress in the period ahead in reducing unemployment and returning inflation to the target was therefore expected, although this progress was likely to be gradual”.

We note that this differs from the Minutes for April and May, which instead included the statements that “members agreed that it was more likely that the next move in the cash rate would be up rather than down … members also agreed that there was not a strong case for a near-term adjustment in monetary policy”.

We interpret this as a prudent tactic, omitting these statements from the Minutes now to avoid them becoming a key focus for markets. The RBA Governor in his speech of June 13 restated the line “it is likely that the next move in interest rates will be up, not down”, confirming that this remains the RBA’s central case view.

On the global economy, the Minutes note greater uncertainties, including: political developments in Italy; developments in some emerging markets; and the ongoing trade tensions. There is an acknowledgment that “growth in the major advanced economies had eased a little in the first quarter of 2018” but the view remains that “the underlying momentum in these economies had still been consistent with above trend growth”. Importantly, wage pressures are seen as increasing and it is noted that central banks are withdrawing some monetary stimulus.

On the domestic economy, the RBA’s central case view and forecasts are unchanged, “members noted that recent data had been consistent with the Bank’s central case forecast for GDP growth to pick up to be above 3% by the end of 2018”.

The June RBA Board meeting was held the day before the release of the March quarter National Accounts. The Minutes suggest that annual GDP growth was expected to pick up to at least 2.75%. As it turned out, the National Accounts surprised to the high side, with annual GDP growth printing at an above trend 3.1% and non-farm GDP growth a well above trend 3.6%.

For the RBA and other forecasters, the outlook for consumer spending remains a key uncertainty, at a time of high debt levels and weak wages growth. On jobs growth, the RBA expects the current slowdown to be temporary, with the Minutes pointing to the positive forward indicators, which would, in the view of the RBA, suggest a gradual decline in the unemployment rate and, in time, a gradual lift in wages growth.

Lastly, comments on housing were along the lines of earlier statements. In short, the sector is cooling and APRA’s supervisory measures and tighter lending standards are view by the RBA as being helpful in containing the build-up of risks on household balance sheets. As previously, there is also an acknowledgement that “there might be some further tightening of lending standards in the period ahead”, while at the same stating “the average mortgage interest rate on outstanding loans had declined over the previous year”.

We remain of the view that the RBA will be on hold throughout 2018 and 2019. We continue to expect annual GDP growth to be a trend 2.7% for December 2018, moderating to a below trend 2.5% in 2019 as wages growth remains sluggish, the downturn in home building activity accelerates and as global commodity prices ease from current levels, denting national income growth. 

Andrew Hanlan

Andrew Hanlan

Andrew has been with Westpac since 2002. After starting his career in the public sector, Andrew worked at the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra, before enjoying a stint at Parliament House, where he worked as an adviser to the Finance Minister. His main focus is analysing the Australian macro economy.

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