Mortgage holders rejoice – the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept the cash rate on hold in August for the second month in a row. So have we finally reached calmer waters? Or is there one last rate rise wave headed our way?
In what many will see as better news than a Matildas’ World Cup win, the RBA held interest rates steady in August for the second month in a row.
After a relentless string of rate hikes (12 since April 2022), homeowners may be sceptical about what’s happening.
So is the RBA board finally satisfied we’ve endured enough rate hikes? Or is RBA Governor Philip Lowe saving one last rate hike for mortgage holders as a parting gift before he vacates his position next month?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the underlying data.
Inflation pressures are easing
The RBA has made it clear that it has been hiking rates to help lower inflation.
So it was welcome news this week when the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that annual inflation has dropped to 6.0%.
It’s fair to say most of us wouldn’t normally celebrate goods and services prices rising 6% over the past year.
However, it’s a sign that inflation is still falling from its peak of 7.8%, and that’s exactly what the RBA has been aiming for.
Why the rate pause?
The RBA knows it’s treading a fine line with interest rate decisions. At its August board meeting the central bank explained why it kept interest rates in a holding pattern:
– It can take time for the economy to respond to previous rate hikes.
– The outlook for household spending is uncertain. Many households are experiencing a squeeze on their finances. Others are benefiting from rising housing prices and higher interest income.
– Consumer spending has slowed “substantially” due to cost-of-living pressures and higher interest rates.
The tide might be turning, but is one last rate rise wave coming?
Inflation is down. Rates are steady.
So far, so good.
But we may not be in calmer waters just yet.
As this diagram shows, inflation is still well above the RBA’s target range of 2-3%.
So the RBA has left the door open for further rate hikes depending on how the economy is tracking, and of course, what happens with inflation.
Indeed, the RBA said as much in its latest rate announcement: “Some further tightening of monetary policy may be required to ensure that inflation returns to target in a reasonable timeframe”.
So … what’s the rate outlook?
As mentioned earlier, RBA Governor Philip Lowe will vacate the top job on September 17 and be replaced by his deputy, Michele Bullock.
Thus, one might think that if any more rate rises were planned in the short term, they’d take place before that transition occurs to help give Ms Bullock a clean slate to work from (assuming inflation data continues on a downward trend). And there’s only one RBA board meeting between then and now – on September 5.
Indeed, Westpac has made a bold call, saying we could be heading into a lengthy period of stable rates ahead of a rate cut, possibly in the second half of 2024.
So, with any luck, we could be through the thick of it.
Then again, all things considered, interest rates are now much higher than they were 18 months ago and will likely remain so for some time.
So if it’s been a while since you last looked at your home loan and current interest rate, call us today to make sure you’re paying a competitive rate on a loan that’s well-suited to your needs.
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