Rising risk the RBA's next rate move will be a cut: Shane Oliver

Rising risk the RBA's next rate move will be a cut: Shane Oliver
Rising risk the RBA's next rate move will be a cut: Shane Oliver

EXPERT OBSERVATION

This month’s RBA Board meeting saw interest rates left on hold for the 25th meeting in a row.

While there were no surprises on rates the RBA’s growth expectations have surprisingly moved higher seeing GDP growth of 3.5% this year and next (which is up by around 0.25% compared to its previous forecasts) and it now sees unemployment falling to around 4.75% in 2020 (which is down by around 0.25%) and it sees inflation moving above its previous forecast of 2.25% in 2020. 

While some upwards revisions to growth forecasts and downwards revisions to unemployment forecasts were justified by recently released data our assessment is that the RBA is underestimating the threat posed by slowing growth in China, tightening credit conditions and a negative wealth effect as house prices continue to fall, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne where we anticipate a top to bottom fall of 20% stretching out to 2020.

As a result, in contrast to the RBA we see growth slowing to around 2.5-3% through 2019 as opposed to the RBA’s expectation for 3.5% growth which in turn will result in higher unemployment and keep wages growth and inflation lower for longer than the RBA is allowing.

Right now the RBA likely feels comfortable in its assessment that while there is no case to change monetary policy at present that the next move on interest rates is more likely to be up than down. This also remains our base case, although we don’t see a rate hike until late 2020 at the earliest.

However, with the risks to growth around tighter credit, falling house prices, the associated drag on consumer spending and the risks around China our assessment is there is a rising risk that the next move on rates will be a cut. But that’s a second half 2019 story at the earliest because the RBA will need to see broader signs of softness to consider cutting interest rates and that will take time. So, there is no prospect of imminent RBA rate cuts “rescuing” the housing market.

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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Interest Rates Shane Oliver

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