In the second interest rate decision from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) for 2022, the board decided to hold the official cash rate at a record low 0.1 per cent – a rate that has remained unchanged since November 2020.
The bank’s latest call was largely anticipated against the backdrop of some key uncertainties.
Noting a change in dynamics since the start of 2022, when conjecture about interest rate rises was considerably rampant, Harley Dale, chief economist at CreditorWatch, cited several key developments that influenced the board’s decision on Tuesday.
“The Ukrainian crisis provides substantial geopolitical uncertainty. Damaging economic and humanitarian consequences have yet to play out and discussion of petrol prices here in Australia hitting two dollars a litre won’t be lost on consumers.
“Consumer confidence has already been trending down for nearly 12 months and supply chain issues associated with the crisis is likely to lead to a higher demand in groceries, sparked interest rates and steeper mortgage repayments,” said Mr Dale.
An added unknown is the pace at which the business and household sectors will bounce back now that COVID restrictions have largely been removed.
“Many are out and about, but many also remain reticent to engage in public life in a manner consistent with the world’s ‘new normal’, whatever that may be. The situation will settle down, but in the interim, it presents a challenge for bricks and mortar SMEs,” Mr Dale noted.
The federal election, now almost certain to be held in May, is also expected to weigh on the governor’s mind.
“The short of it is that the RBA is still in sit and wait mode,” Mr Dale said.
“The situation between Russia and the Ukraine likely throws some delay into interest rate expectations here, although we do have a highly anticipated Federal Reserve rate decision in the United States later this month.”
AMP’s Shane Oliver expects the RBA’s conditions for raising rates to be in place by the September quarter.
“Our base case is for the first hike to be in August but there is a very high risk it will come in June if wages growth picks up as we expect, underlying inflation continues to surprise on the upside and unemployment continues to fall,” Mr Oliver said.
Similarly, Bendigo Bank’s David Robertson believes August is the month to watch.
“The RBA is very close to starting their tightening cycle and exiting pandemic monetary policy settings but will probably wait for two more sets of inflation data (in April and July) before hiking rates in August,” said Mr Robertson.
“A series of cash rate hikes up to around 1.5 per cent by mid-2023 should then follow.”
Maja's career in journalism spans well over a decade across finance, business and politics. Now an experienced editor and reporter across all elements of the financial services sector, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies.