Steady as she goes: Reserve Bank likely to leave rates just where they are

The RBA isn't expected to hike rates - or cut them.

The RBA isn't expected to hike rates - or cut them. Photo: TND

Australians are set to hear from the Reserve Bank for the first time in 2024, and although interest rates are likely to stay on hold it’s unlikely to declare the inflation fight over.

In a welcome development for borrowers, the central bank board is widely expected to leave rates unchanged when it hands down its decision on Tuesday after inflation data came in a little softer than anticipated.

Also on Tuesday, tax change details will be revealed when Treasurer Jim Chalmers introduces Labor’s revamp of stage three cuts into parliament.

Combined with evidence of subdued spending and a softening labour market, most economists say the RBA has little reason to move the cash rate higher.

All 27 experts and economists surveyed by Finder expect it to stay at 4.35 per cent on Tuesday.

The decision itself may be straight forward but governor Michele Bullock will have an opportunity to set the tone on monetary policy in a post meeting statement and press conference – the latter being the first since such a set up was recommended last year.

Ms Bullock is also set to appear before a parliamentary committee on Friday.

Oxford Economics Australia head of macroeconomic forecasting Sean Langcake said the central bank’s language would reflect a change in economic conditions since its last communications in December.

He expects the board to keep the possibility of more hikes alive but water down any reference to reflect inflation falling faster than the RBA’s own forecasts.

But with the focus now shifting to the timing of rate cuts, Mr Langcake said the RBA would not jump the gun.

Watching and waiting

“You wouldn’t want to be hanging any banners saying ‘mission accomplished’ on the fight on inflation,” he told AAP.

ANZ head of Australian economics Adam Boyton agreed the RBA’s language would remain cautious for a while despite economic conditions turning a corner.

The bank’s economists are pencilling in a November start to interest rate cuts but Mr Boyton said the risks were tilted towards earlier movement.

An updated set of economic forecasts are also due from the central bank on Tuesday, with both GDP and inflation forecasts likely to be revised down.

There are few major data releases scheduled aside from the Australian Bureau of Statistics international trade figures, Melbourne Institute’s inflation gauge and job ad numbers from ANZ and Indeed, all due on Monday.

The ABS will also release its selected living cost indexes on Wednesday, which show how price movements effect different household types.

In share markets, Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday closed up 111.2 points, or 1.47 per cent, to 7699.4.

The broader All Ordinaries gained 112.8 points, or 1.44 per cent, to 7931.6.


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