RBA expands on its easing bias: ANZ's Kieran Davies

RBA expands on its easing bias: ANZ's Kieran Davies
RBA expands on its easing bias: ANZ's Kieran Davies

GUEST OBSERVER 

The RBA expanded on its reinstated easing bias, noting that it was waiting for inflation, housing and labour market data that would feed into the staff’s updated economic outlook.

Brexit has spilled over into lower Australian bond yields, but the RBA downplayed its potential economic effect on Australia.

We narrowly favour a 25bp rate cut to 1.5 percent in August given low underlying inflation and with the labour market losing momentum. We are surprised that increased uncertainty has not materially dented confidence, but there could be a delayed impact given job ads are down sharply in early July.

We view S&P’s recent decision to lower Australia’s credit rating outlook to negative as a downside risk to growth.

DETAILS

The RBA reinstated an easing bias in July and the minutes made it clear that the bias hinged on inflation, housing and labour market data. The minutes said that “further information on inflationary pressures, the labour market and housing market activity would be available over the following month and that the staff would provide an update of their forecasts ahead of the August Statement on Monetary Policy ... [which] would allow the Board to refine its assessment of the outlook ... and to make any adjustment to the stance of policy that may be appropriate”.

Since the meeting, employment rose more slowly in June, up 8K, which confirmed that jobs growth has slowed sharply this year. The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.8 percent, after holding at 5.7 percent for the preceding three months.

The CPI is due on 27 July and we expect underlying inflation to stay weak, with the average of the trimmed mean and weighted median CPIs expected to rise by 0.4 percent in Q2 or by 1.4 percent over the year. June building approvals are due the same day as the 2 August cash rate decision and fell 5 percent in May.

The RBA was not fazed by Brexit. The RBA viewed Brexit as a successful market stress test in the wake of regulatory reforms introduced after the global financial crisis, where lower global bond yields had spilled over to Australia. The board believed it was too soon to judge the effect of Brexit on the UK economy, which would be tempered by the depreciation of the GBP. The staff anticipated a “modest adverse effect” on global growth, absent a significant financial dislocation. The board noted that the direct effect of Brexit on Australia was “likely to be quite small” given limited trade links.

The RBA seems slightly less confident about the domestic outlook. The RBA thought that the handover from the mining sector to the rest of the economy is “well advanced”, with recent data pointing to modest growth in Q2.

Positive surveyed business conditions were seen as consistent with some signs of life in non-mining business investment. However, to us the RBA seemed slightly less sure about the outlook in that it noted that indicators for consumer spending and the housing market had been mixed and that the underemployment rate had not fallen as much as the unemployment rate over the past year. The RBA also highlighted that all measures of inflation expectations were below average.

The Board repeated its warning than an appreciating exchange rate could complicate the outlook. The exchange rate was USD0.75 at the time of the July meeting, consistent with the assumption underpinning the RBA’s last set of economic forecasts. The AUD subsequently rose to about USD0.7650, but has recently eased to about USD0.7525.

OUTLOOK

We still narrowly favour a rate cut in August. We expect a 25bp rate cut to 1.5 percent given we expect underlying inflation to remain low in Q2, while the labour market has lost momentum this year (consensus: 1.5 percent; market pricing: 1.61 percent).

We also view S&P’s recent decision to lower Australia’s credit rating outlook to negative as a downside risk to activity given it could either trigger further fiscal consolidation or lead to a downgrade to the actual rating that would likely place pressure on bank funding costs. We have been surprised that the spike in market volatility and increased uncertainty has not materially dented confidence – consumer confidence is down 3.3 percent over the past four weeks, while business confidence actually rose in June – but there may be a delayed reaction in that we estimate that job ads are down sharply in early July.

The fact that the easing bias mentioned housing and labour market data rather than just the CPI is unusual given the monthly stats can be volatile, but this suggests to us that the RBA may be giving itself some leeway with the Q2 CPI result as it also weighs up the state of the property market, while interpreting the labour market as a timely read on the broader economy. 

Kieran Davies is an economist for ANZ and can be contacted here.

Tags: 
Consumer Confidence

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