RBA’s April meeting minutes out, any hint of rate hikes?

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Highlights

  • The Reserve Bank of Australia has recently released its minutes for the April monetary policy meeting.
  • Given the rapid rise in inflation, an interest rate hike is expected in the coming months.
  • The RBA would pay close attention to the upcoming inflation and wages data before raising cash rate.

The minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting held in April have further bolstered the view that a rate hike is imminent in the coming months. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has finally discussed the potential timing of the first rate hike, stating that upcoming inflation and wage data would likely be the key stimulants for the same.

Analysts suggest that the RBA would first examine the wage price index data, which is due in May, before raising the cash rate. Going by these expectations, the rate hike is expected to arrive by June and not May. However, further clarity may be achieved once the inflation and wage data are released.

The RBA minutes also shed light on the current state of the global economy. Stating the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, the minutes highlighted that global inflation is set to rise in the period ahead. Here is a closer look at the factors that played a crucial role in RBA’s latest minutes.

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Clouded outlook for global growth

Most global factors point towards a mix of slightly reaffirming but mostly uncertain outlook ahead. Consumption and business conditions have remained resilient to the Omicron outbreak. However, since the war in Ukraine ensued, inflation has dominated the minds of policymakers, investors, and consumers alike.

The rapid decline in purchasing power led many nations to adopt an interest rate hike policy. However, some nations resorted to supportive measures against rising inflation to help ease the cost-of-living pressures. Australia’s stance on interest rates stands as an anomaly against the rapid rate hikes seen in many other nations.

Additionally, inflation shows no signs of easing across the globe, with energy prices reaching new highs in the backdrop of rising sanctions on Russia. Global shipping costs had increased, semiconductor prices have picked up again, and consumer prices have reached multi-year highs in most countries. These factors together have made the future growth outlook uncertain.

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All eyes are on March inflation data

The RBA had defined 2-3% inflation as a target band that needs to be achieved before raising interest rates. Given the rapid growth in inflation, the target band by the RBA is soon expected to be achieved in the upcoming inflation data. The consumer prices index data for the March quarter will be out on April 27, while the wage price index data for the same period will be released on May 18.

The current policy conditions in Australia are highly accommodative, with interest rates remaining at a record low level of 10 basis points. After much anticipation, even the US Fed has announced its first interest rate hike this year. However, in Australia, the central bank’s priority has been progressing towards full employment and reaching the inflation target before increasing the cash rate. This was likely to require a faster rate of wages growth than had been seen over previous years.

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Overall, the wait to reach the inflation target might soon be over. The RBA minutes state that measures of underlying inflation in the March quarter are likely to be above 3%. Wages growth has also improved, though it is still inconsistent with the levels needed to be consistent with inflation being sustainably at the target.

Labour market strength

The Australian labour market has been the source of utmost strength and resilience during trying times. The continued decline in unemployment has provided a higher growth outlook for Australia, even as the global economy is in shambles. However, the lack of a skilled workforce and rising consumer prices have been weighing heavily on the domestic economy.

Overall, inflation is the key factor upon which most of the rate hike expectations are stacked. A strong rise in inflation could prompt an aggressive reaction from the RBA in the form of steeper interest rate hikes.

In the meantime, economists expect the RBA to raise rates by 15 basis points, taking the cash rate to 25 basis points in the June board meeting. However, if inflation continues to affect the economy, the RBA could even opt for an earlier rate hike. In a nutshell, the upcoming data would be crucial in deciding the extent and timing of the rate hike.

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