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Tuesday, 04 June 2013 06:22

RBA holds rates steady, easing bias intact

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665200-health-insurance-moneyAs expected the Reserve Bank Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged
at 2.75% at its June meeting.

The Governor's statement accompanying the decision presented taken as a
whole leaves us comfortable with our existing position: a 2% terminal rate
with the next easing in August.

The key concluding paragraph retained a clear easing bias but also made it
clear the Bank was in assessment mode – not only on the need for further
support for demand but also the degree to which the inflation outlook
afforded scope for further measures. Monetary settings were judged to be
'easy' and sufficient to "contribute to a strengthening of growth over
time, consistent with achieving the inflation target". And settings were
seen as "appropriate for the time being", the phrasing indicating the
Bank's views may be reassessed month to month.

However, the closing sentence gave a more uncertain view on the scope for
further easing: "the inflation outlook, as currently assessed, may provide
some scope for further easing, should that be required to support demand."
That contrasts with the statement accompanying the May decision to cut
rates which had a more definitive assessment that "the inflation outlook
would afford scope to ease further ..." with the Board choosing to "use
some of that scope". The changed emphasis points to the RBA seeking more
comfort on inflation, suggesting any follow on move is more likely to occur
post CPI in August than at July's meeting.

The sharp decline in the AUD is also likely a factor in the more qualified
view on 'scope'. The Bank may be seeking not only to reassess what impact
this may have on inflation but where the current move settles. Notably, the
statement acknowledges the decline in the currency but asserts that the
exchange rate "remains high considering the decline in export prices". That
aligns with our own view that the decline has merely reduced the degree of
overvaluation rather than eliminated it altogether (in USD terms we see the
decline as having reduced a 10c overvaluation to one around 3c). The Bank
may also share our concern that the change in market expectations on Fed
policy (a 'tapering' in QE purchases), which has been a key driver of
recent currency moves is misplaced and could reverse quickly.

The rest of the Governor's statement was brief. Global growth was seen
running a bit below average with "reasonable prospects of a pick-up next
year".  =Australia's growth was seen as "a bit below trend" and inflation
consistent with the medium term target.

The description of the impact of previous policy easing was decidedly more
downbeat though. In April, the Governor's statement boldly asserted that
there were "a number of indications that the substantial easing of monetary
policy during late 2011 and 2012 is having an expansionary effect on the
economy". In May, the view was that there had been "a strengthening in
consumption and a modest firming in dwelling investment". In June though
the statement looks less convincing with simply: "The easing in monetary
policy over the past 18 months has supported interest-sensitive areas of
spending".
Also of note, the view on business investment statement is not touched on
at all. This may be due to heightened uncertainty around the timing of the
mining investment cycle but is notable given the resilience of investment
plans revealed in last week's ABS Capex report.
We saw this has a key factor in the RBA leaving rates on hold this month
and it might have been put forward as a positive sign but instead the Bank
has opted not to discuss the investment outlook directly at all.

Conclusion
The Reserve Bank has retained an easing bias, but it is not an urgent one.
The path of easing from here will depend on developments in demand; the
financial markets (the $A, as it jointly impacts demand and inflation) and
the inflation story itself. The most important piece of information on the
latter front will come to hand between the July and August meetings, in the
form of the second quarter CPI. We have a more downbeat view on global growth next year and our domestic forecasts are also lower than the Bank's. As such we
already see a strong case for further monetary policy easing. However, the
tone of today's statement implies that the RBA Board is looking for further
evidence before acting again, which points to rates being kept on hold in
July.  However, it is likely to signal at that meeting that the forthcoming
inflation print could provide scope for it to support demand further within
the context of its target. That intent would then be actioned at the August
meeting. Beyond that point, we see two further 0.25% rate cut moves, in the last quarter of
this year and the first quarter of next year.

 

Westpac Economics Team

 

This material has been provided for general information purposes and must not be construed as investment advice. This material has been prepared without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. Investors should consider obtaining professional investment advice tailored to their specific circumstances prior to making any investment decisions and should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

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