The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has chosen to hold the interest rate in the first decision of 2024.
The RBA board met on Tuesday, announcing the cash rate will remain at 4.35 per cent.
The decision comes as inflation eased to 4.1 per cent in the December quarter, down from 5.4 per cent in September, coming in slightly lower than expected.
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The economic outlook is currently “uncertain”, the RBA said.
“The central forecasts are for inflation to return to the target range of 2–3 per cent in 2025, and to the midpoint in 2026.
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“Services price inflation is expected to decline gradually as demand moderates and growth in labour and non-labour costs eases.
“Employment is expected to continue to grow moderately, and the unemployment rate and the broader underutilisation rate are expected to increase a bit further.
“There also remains a high level of uncertainty around the outlook for the Chinese economy and the implications of the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.”
The RBA said a further increase in interest rates “cannot be ruled out” as returning inflation to target remains its highest priority.
“The path of interest rates to inflation returning to target in a reasonable timeframe will depend upon the data and the evolving assessment of risks,” it said.
“The board will continue to pay close attention to developments in the global economy, trends in domestic demand, and the outlook for inflation and the labour market.
“The board remains resolute in its determination to return inflation to target and will do what is necessary to achieve that outcome.”
The Greens slammed the decision not to cut interest rates, saying it punishes households.
“In a time when economic inequality is deepening and ordinary Australians are struggling under the weight of financial stress, the Reserve Bank’s failure to cut interest rates is an active decision to make that stress worse,” Greens Economic Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said.
“This decision fails to recognise the urgent need for relief among mortgage holders and renters alike, who are already battling the cost-of-living crisis that has seen prices for essentials skyrocket.”
Countries cautioned against cutting interest rates
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has urged countries to wait until inflationary pressures are “durably contained” before cutting interest rates.
HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said Australia would likely be the among the last developed countries to start cutting interest rates despite the excitement gripping the market.
Each of the big four banks believe that interest rates have peaked.
The Commonwealth Bank expects rates to drop to 2.85 per cent by next June, Westpac forecasts a drop to 2.85 per cent by next December, NAB is expecting a drop to 3.1 per cent by next November and ANZ says rates will drop to 3.6 per cent by next June.
The average monthly mortgage repayment on a 25-year, $500,000 home loan has increased by more than $1200 since the RBA began raising rates in April 2022, according to Rate City.
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