By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s central bank is all but certain to keep its cash rate at a record low of 1% next week though it will likely cut again two more times to boost inflation and support a stuttering economy, a Reuters poll showed.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) chopped its benchmark rate twice since June with an eye on unemployment which is slowly ticking higher. The cuts have prompted banks to lower mortgage rates, helping spark a welcome revival of the country’s subdued housing market.
The government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also chimed in, offering tax rebates to millions of households in a bid to spur consumer spending.
Still, economists and rates futures forecast more monetary stimulus, though not immediately.
All but one of 36 economists surveyed over the past week expect the RBA to hold the cash rate at its Sept. 3 monthly meeting. Barclays (LON:) was the outlier, predicting a cut to 0.75%.
An overwhelming majority, or 32 of 36 surveyed, see at least one cut to 0.75% in the final quarter of this year compared with 27 of 40 economists in the July poll.
The cash rate is widely seen at 0.5% by early next year – a level considered to be the floor for the RBA. In the July poll, Standard Chartered (LON:) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) were the only two banks to predict rates at 0.50%.
Cementing that view, RBA Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said on Tuesday the bank would consider unconventional monetary options if the cash rate was cut to 0.5% though he hoped such heavy policy adjustments would not be needed.
As a result, more than 80% of those polled, or 29 of 35, predict policy at 0.5% until end-2020.
“The probability of other (unconventional) measures next year is rising,” AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said.
“Negative interest rates are unlikely but quantitative easing would likely be included. Ideally this would involve working with the government to provide a fiscal boost.”
Australia’s A$1.9 trillion economy likely completed its 28th year of recession-free expansion last quarter, the longest boom among developed countries. But economic risks have intensified over the past year, with growth slowing, inflation lukewarm, property market shaky and unemployment ticking higher.
The RBA expects the economy to start generating wage pressures only when unemployment falls to 4.5% or below from 5.2% now.
“Low wages growth present a challenge for the RBA to be able to hit its 2-3% inflation target,” said HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham. “Our central case sees further RBA cuts in the coming quarters.”
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