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RBA makes cash rate call ahead of budget

RBA makes cash rate call ahead of budget

The RBA has made its cash rate verdict for April ahead of the government releasing the federal budget this evening.

Following its monthly board meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has announced that it has held the official cash rate at 1.5 per cent.

It has been two-and-a-half years (August 2016) since the RBA last made a monetary policy adjustment.

Thirty-five of the 36 analysts on rate comparison website Finder.com.au’s panel predicted a hold verdict.

Chief economist at AMP Capital Shane Oliver was among the analysts that predicted a hold verdict but claimed that a rate cut would have been more appropriate in the current economic environment.

"While the threat to growth and inflation from the housing downturn (via reduced construction activity and negative wealth effects) is such that the RBA should cut interest rates in order to get in before unemployment starts rising, the most likely scenario is that they will continue to hold,” he said.

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“The RBA probably needs to see more evidence that the slowdown seen in the second half last year is not just temporary, that consumer spending is under serious threat and that this will drive higher unemployment and lower for longer inflation.

“It will probably also want to see what sort of fiscal stimulus comes out of the budget and the federal election outcome.”

He added: “So rate cuts are probably still several months off."

CoreLogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, agreed, “Although the cash rate remains unchanged since August 2016, there is a growing likelihood that the cash rate will move lower later this year. 

“While labour markets remain strong, low unemployment and above average jobs growth is generally confined to New South Wales and Victoria.”

Mr Lawless pointed to CoreLogic’s latest Hedonic Home Value Index, which reported that softening housing market conditions persist, with national dwelling values falling by 0.6 per cent in the month to 31 March. 

“Concerns around slowing consumption as the wealth effect reverses, causing households to pull back on spending and revert to saving, were likely a central theme of the RBA’s board meeting deliberations,” he said.

“The ongoing falls in dwelling values have the potential to weigh down consumer attitudes towards spending and cause a sharper than anticipated fall in residential construction activity.”

However, managing director of mortgage aggregator Finsure John Kolenda said that despite continued cash rate inertia, banks may begin to reduce rates out of cycle.

“Funding costs for banks have actually been falling and they could cut rates to offset some rises they imposed last year that were driven by rising funding costs,” he said.

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