RBA – Hoses Down Rate Hike Talk
RBA hoses down rate-hike talk and Australian dollar at same time
By business reporter Stephen Lettshttp
Posted Fri at 2:02pm
RBA deputy governor Guy Debelle says not a lot should be read into “neutral” rates discussions. (Supplied: RBA)
It was a case of “move along, nothing to see here”, as the Reserve Bank attempted to hose down market speculation this month’s board minutes constitute a nod to raising interest rates.
The RBA July meeting minutes released earlier this week noted the board had discussed the theoretical “neutral” level of the cash rate at 3.5 per cent, 2 percentage points above where the current cash rate is parked.
Speaking at a business lunch in Adelaide, RBA deputy governor Guy Debelle said: “No significance should be read into the fact the neutral rate was discussed at this particular meeting.”
“Most meetings, the board allocates some time to discussing a policy-relevant issue in more detail, and on this occasion it was the neutral rate.”
Dr Debelle would no doubt have been pleased his comments had an immediate impact, dropping the Australian dollar below 79 US cents, having almost touched 80 cents in the wake of the release of the minutes.
Dr Debelle said the so-called “neutral rate” — the interest rate that keeps an economy growing its potential, while keeping inflation stable — had been declining around the world for some time, but fell sharply after the GFC hit.
Indeed, the fact the cash rate was significantly below the RBA’s theoretical neutral rate was not that unusual. It has been that way since 2012.
The problem for central banks, including the RBA, is they are not getting the same bang-for-their-buck when cutting rates to historic lows.
“This means that the current [nominal] cash rate setting of 1.5 per cent today is not as expansionary as a cash rate of 1.5 per cent would have been in the 1990s or the first half of the 2000s,” Dr Debelle said.
RBA won’t necessarily follow others in lifting rates
Dr Debelle also pointed out the current wave of hawkishness sweeping over major central banks did not mean the RBA had to follow their lead.
“The policy rates in both the US and Canada still remain below that in Australia,” he said.
“Ultimately, in Australia, as is the case elsewhere, policy rates are set at the level assessed to be appropriate to achieve the domestic policy objectives.”
Dr Debelle also pointed out the conundrum for Australia in the emergency rate settings and money printing by other central banks.
Why the RBA can’t move
Some economists see the Reserve Bank hiking interest rates before the end of the year. Ian Verrender reckons they’re dreaming.
“While an easier monetary policy elsewhere in the world should lead to faster growth in the world economy, which is good for the Australian economy, an appreciating exchange rate works against this,” he said.
J.P. Morgan’s Sally Auld said while Dr Debelle’s put-down of the market’s reaction’s the board meeting minutes were strong, his jaw-boning efforts on the dollar were reasonably “lukewarm”.
“The deputy governor’s comments have probably delayed a break above 80 US cents, but with persistent weakness in the US dollar, better Chinese growth momentum sustaining into the third quarter, export prices lifting and rate differentials wider, an eventual break above this level seems somewhat inevitable in the near term,” Ms Auld said.
“We still doubt these levels are sustainable over the medium term, but as we have seen on previous occasions, periods of overvaluation can often extend for longer than might be expected.