‘Low tolerance’: Outside chance for November rate hike

Consumer confidence slumps to fresh lows

Australia’s central bank is laser-focused on returning inflation to its target band in its preferred time frame and is unlikely to stomach a delay.

The minutes from the October Reserve Bank of Australia board meeting, released on Tuesday, confirmed its determination to return inflation to the 2-3 per cent target range by late 2025.

The October meeting, the first under the leadership of governor Michele Bullock, resulted in the fourth decision in a row to put rates on hold.

This followed an aggressive series of 12 interest rate hikes targeted at fast-rising consumer prices.

Inflation has moved past its peak but the RBA remains alert to price pressures and is prepared to hike interest rates further if needed.

“The board has a low tolerance for a slower return of inflation to target than currently expected,” the minutes read.

Risks to the timeline included slow progress on services inflation and higher retail petrol prices, which could shift household expectations of inflation.

“Members acknowledged that upside risks were a significant concern given how long inflation is likely to remain above target,” the minutes read.

Outside chance of interest rates hike in November

Experts believe a November another interest rate hike remains an outside chance against that backdrop, with Commonwealth Bank chief economist Gareth Aird putting it at about 40 per cent.

“The October board minutes confirm that the November board meeting is ‘live’,” he said.

“Indeed the minutes today have a slightly more hawkish tone than the September board minutes.”

Oxford Australia head of macroeconomic forecasting Sean Langcake said an upside inflation surprise in upcoming September quarter price data – released next week – could push the central bank towards a hike.

But that was nothing new and another pause was still more likely, he said, cautioning against reading too much into the board’s “low tolerance”.

“Its a line that does lay a little bit of groundwork for a hike in November without committing them to that course of action,” Langcake said.

“[But] the basic calculus will still be the same when they meet in November and the case to ride it out will still be very strong.”

RBA references housing market recovery

The housing market was also nestled under the case for another hike, with the “wealth effect” potentially supporting higher household spending.

“The rise in housing prices could also be a signal that the current policy stance was not as restrictive as had been assumed, although there was other evidence that monetary conditions were tight,” the minutes read.

The recovering property market could trigger further interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank.

The case for keeping interest rates on hold was little changed from earlier communications and centred on the lag time between interest rate hikes and their impact on the economy.

“At the same time, inflation had abated from its peak in December 2022, consumption growth was weak and households’ real disposable incomes were still falling.”

The board was also aware that it had not taken in enough new data to adjust its tactics.

As flagged by several economists, the central bank will get new inflation, economic activity, and labour market data – plus a fresh set of staff forecasts – ahead of the November meeting.

-with AAP

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