Australia’s central bank again dismisses calls for 2022 rate hike

FILE PHOTO: Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe speaks at a parliamentary economics committee meeting in Sydney
FILE PHOTO: Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe speaks at a parliamentary economics committee meeting in Sydney, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

November 16, 2021

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s top central banker has again pushed back against market wagers for a rise in interest rates next year, arguing that home-grown inflation was likely to lag well behind the spikes seen in some other developed nations.

Speaking on Tuesday, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe noted that inflation in Australia was starting at a lower point than in many counterparts and the wages system had much more inertia built in.

“The latest data and forecasts do not warrant an increase in the cash rate in 2022,” said Lowe, taking issue with market pricing for a hike as soon as June.

“The economy and inflation would have to turn out very differently from our central scenario for the Board to consider an increase in interest rates next year.”

Minutes of the RBA’s November policy meeting out on Tuesday showed the Board felt the risks on inflation had moved upward, but the central case was still for no rate rise until 2024.

Markets are wagering on at least three hikes next year, largely reflecting inflation pressures globally and particularly the United States.

Yet, Lowe emphasised that Australia’s circumstances were different. While core inflation had jumped to 2.1% in the third quarter, that took it only just within the RBA’s target band of 2-3% for the first time in six years.

Crucially, there had been no sign of a broad-based surge in wages growth like that seen in the United States, said Lowe.

Participation in the local labour market was still not far from record highs and the wage-setting system tended to lead to only gradual increases over time.

“Our business liaison suggests that most businesses retain a strong cost control mindset and are seeking to use measures other than raising base wages to attract and retain staff,” he added.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)