Australia Leaves Monetary Policy Unchanged

The Reserve Bank of Australia held the cash rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5 percent at its December 2017 meeting, as widely expected. While saying the Australian economy grew at around its trend rate over the year to the September quarter and is expected to average around 3 percent over the next few years, policymakers judged the outlook for household consumption is a continuing source of uncertainty.

Excerpt from the statement by the governor, Philip Lowe: 

Recent data suggest that in Australia business conditions are positive and capacity utilisation has increased. The outlook for non-mining business investment has improved further, with the forward-looking indicators being more positive than they have been for some time. Increased public infrastructure investment is also supporting the economy. One continuing source of uncertainty is the outlook for household consumption. Household incomes are growing slowly and debt levels are high.

Employment growth has been strong over 2017 and the unemployment rate has declined. Employment has been rising in all states and has been accompanied by a rise in labour force participation. The various forward-looking indicators continue to point to solid growth in employment over the period ahead. There are reports that some employers are finding it more difficult to hire workers with the necessary skills. However, wage growth remains low. This is likely to continue for a while yet, although the stronger conditions in the labour market should see some lift in wage growth over time.

Inflation remains low, with both CPI and underlying inflation running a little below 2 per cent. The Bank's central forecast remains for inflation to pick up gradually as the economy strengthens.

The Australian dollar remains within the range that it has been in over the past two years. An appreciating exchange rate would be expected to result in a slower pick-up in economic activity and inflation than currently forecast.

Growth in housing debt has been outpacing the slow growth in household income for some time. To address the medium-term risks associated with high and rising household indebtedness, APRA has introduced a number of supervisory measures. Credit standards have been tightened in a way that has reduced the risk profile of borrowers. Nationwide measures of housing prices are little changed over the past six months, with conditions having eased in Sydney. In the eastern capital cities, a considerable additional supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years. Rent increases remain low in most cities.

The low level of interest rates is continuing to support the Australian economy. Taking account of the available information, the Board judged that holding the stance of monetary policy unchanged at this meeting would be consistent with sustainable growth in the economy and achieving the inflation target over time.

Australia Leaves Monetary Policy Unchanged

RBA l Rida Husna |
12/5/2017 3:59:24 AM