RBA to cut rates second half of next year: Shane Oliver

RBA to cut rates second half of next year: Shane Oliver
RBA to cut rates second half of next year: Shane Oliver


GDP rose by just 0.3% in the September quarter and this saw annual growth slow to 2.8% year on year.

This was well below market (and RBA) expectations for growth around 3.4% year on year.

To some degree the slowdown in the September quarter reflects payback after two surprisingly strong quarters. But it also highlights the uncertainty around consumer spending as house prices slide and the ongoing patchiness of business investment.

We still see the risk of a recession in Australia as being low, but the rising list of downside risks to growth also mean that growth is likely to be constrained at around 2.5-3% over the year ahead as opposed to achieving the RBA’s expectation for growth “to average around 3.5%”. 

RBA to cut rates second half of next year: Shane Oliver

The main points from the September quarter GDP data and associated outlooks are as follows:

Consumer spending slowed to just 0.3% quarter on quarter or 2.5% year on year. Looking forward, apart from quarterly volatility, consumer spending is likely to remain under pressure. Yes employment growth has been strong but this is likely to slow, wages growth is likely to remain weak (with average earnings up just 0.2%qoq or 1.2%yoy in the September quarter) and households are unlikely to have the confidence to run down their saving further in the face of declining home values. (While the household saving rate was revised up its still just 2.4% which is down from around 9% in 2011 and more than a 10 year low). Likely fresh tax cuts next year might help but its doubtful they will be enough.

Housing investment rose 1%qoq and contributed 0.1 percentage points to growth. But while there is still a decent pipeline of work yet to be finished, housing investment will likely slow as the downtrend in building approvals flows through. This in turn will act as a drag on consumer spending via slower demand for household goods.

Underlying business investment (which takes into account asset transfers between the private and public sector) fell 1.9%qoq and detracted 0.2 percentage points from growth. Mining investment is continuing to fall but at least it’s getting near the bottom and the outlook for non-mining investment has improved.

 - Underlying government spending (which takes into account asset transfers between the private and public sector) rose 1.5%qoq and contributed 0.4 percentage points to growth, with the infrastructure spending boom continuing. Public sPending is likely to make a continuing solid contribution to growth over the next year.

 - Inventories detracted 0.3 percentage points from growth.

 - Net exports made a 0.3 percentage point contribution to growth. The outlook for export growth is still positive thanks to resource exports and as service exports like tourism and education continue to grow. But the contribution to growth is likely to slow going forward and is at risk if the US trade war with China is not resolved next year.

Inflation pressures and wages are still subdued. Inflation as measured by the private final consumption deflator was just 0.4%qoq or 1.6%yoy. Average compensation per employee was up by just 0.2%qoq or 1.2%yoy. And real unit wages costs are falling at the rate of 1.5%yoy. 


The Australian economy continues to grow but its slowed back to a subpar pace after a brief spurt. A bottoming in mining investment, improving non-mining investment, strong infrastructure spending and strong export earnings should support growth going forward but are likely to be offset by the downturn in housing construction and house prices weighing on consumer spending. As such growth is likely to be stuck around 2.5-3% over the year ahead.

Given the combination of falling house prices, tightening credit conditions and constrained growth which will keep wages growth weak and inflation below target we are changing our view on the RBA from being one of rates on hold out to second half of 2020 to now seeing the next move being a rate cut.

However, with the RBA still seeing the next move as being up it will take them a while to change their thinking so we don’t see rates being cut until second half next year. When it does start cutting the RBA will likely stick to 0.25% increments and since rate moves are a bit like cockroaches there is likely to be more than one. This in turn will ultimately weigh on the Australian dollar.

SHANE OLIVER is Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist at AMP Capital.

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