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In Shadow Of Greek Crisis, Reserve Bank Leaves Cash Rate At 2%

In the shadow of the Greek debt crisis, the Reserve Bank has left interest rates unchanged, following today’s monthly board meeting.

The cash rate will stay at 2%. The rate was last changed in May when it was cut by 25 basis points.

Greece defaulted on a debt repayment last week. A referendum last Sunday voted 60% against further austerity measures imposed on Greece by the European Union.

In its decision, the RBA noted that: “The Australian dollar has declined noticeably against a rising US dollar over the past year, though less so against a basket of currencies. Further depreciation seems both likely and necessary, particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices.”

Statement from Glenn Stevens, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Statement by Glenn Stevens, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision

At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.0 per cent.

The global economy is expanding at a moderate pace, but some key commodity prices are much lower than a year ago. This trend appears largely to reflect increased supply, including from Australia. Australia’s terms of trade are falling nonetheless.

The Federal Reserve is expected to start increasing its policy rate later this year, but some other major central banks are continuing to ease policy. Hence, global financial conditions remain very accommodative. Despite fluctuations in markets associated with the respective developments in China and Greece, long-term borrowing rates for most sovereigns and creditworthy private borrowers remain remarkably low.

In Australia, the available information suggests that the economy has continued to grow over the past year, but at a rate somewhat below its longer-term average. The rate of unemployment, though elevated, has been little changed recently. Overall, the economy is likely to be operating with a degree of spare capacity for some time yet. With very slow growth in labour costs, inflation is forecast to remain consistent with the target over the next one to two years, even with a lower exchange rate.

In such circumstances, monetary policy needs to be accommodative. Low interest rates are acting to support borrowing and spending. Credit is recording moderate growth overall, with stronger borrowing by businesses and growth in lending to the housing market broadly steady over recent months. Dwelling prices continue to rise strongly in Sydney, though trends have been more varied in a number of other cities. The Bank is working with other regulators to assess and contain risks that may arise from the housing market. In other asset markets, prices for equities and commercial property have been supported by lower long-term interest rates.

The Australian dollar has declined noticeably against a rising US dollar over the past year, though less so against a basket of currencies. Further depreciation seems both likely and necessary, particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices.

The Board today judged that leaving the cash rate unchanged was appropriate at this meeting. Information on economic and financial conditions to be received over the period ahead will inform the Board’s assessment of the outlook and hence whether the current stance of policy will most effectively foster sustainable growth and inflation consistent with the target.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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