- The Reserve Bank of Australia has increased the cash rate target by 50 basis points in its July monetary policy meeting.
- The latest interest rate hike was widely anticipated by economists and market participants.
- The RBA may continue to tighten its monetary policy until inflation levels are brought under control.
As widely anticipated by the market, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has raised the cash rate target by 50 basis points (bps) to 1.35%. It represents the second consecutive interest rate hike of 50bps and the third consecutive rate hike in 2022. The central bank introduced its first interest rate hike in May 2022, increasing the cash rate target by 25bps.
In its July monetary policy meeting, the RBA also lifted the interest rate on Exchange Settlement balances by 50bps to 1.25 per cent. The central bank is leaving no stone unturned to normalise the interest rate from the emergency level record-low 0.1% introduced early during the pandemic.
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High inflation driving interest rate hikes
The RBA highlighted that global inflation remains high, boosted by virus-related disruptions to supply chains, strong demand, and the war in Ukraine, which is putting pressure on productive capacity. While inflation in Australia is also high, it is not as high as in several other countries.
In addition to global factors that are accounting for high inflation in Australia, domestic factors are also playing a crucial role. A tight labour market, strong demand and capacity constraints in certain sectors are contributing to upward pressure on consumer prices. Meanwhile, the floods are affecting some prices.
The RBA expects inflation to peak later in 2022 and then drop back towards the 2-3% range next year. Inflation is likely to ease as commodity prices stabilise and global supply-side problems continue to ease.
Uncertainty about Australia’s economic outlook
The central bank mentioned that the behaviour of household spending is one source of ongoing uncertainty about Australia’s economic outlook. While the latest spending data has been positive, household budgets remain under pressure from higher interest rates and higher prices. Meanwhile, property prices have plummeted in some markets over recent months, following large increases in recent months.
The RBA further highlighted that the global economic outlook remains clouded by the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on the prices for energy and agricultural commodities. With central banks raising interest rates, financial conditions are tightening, and real household incomes are under pressure in several economies. Moreover, one cannot neglect the ongoing uncertainties related to COVID-19, mainly in China.
In the given scenario, one can expect the RBA to continue raising interest rates over the coming months till inflation levels are brought under control. Such increasing interest rates could continue to add pressure on household budgets that are already bearing the brunt of rising consumer prices.