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OPINION: RBA will cut cash rate to 0.25% by June 2020


27 November 2019 | Author: Bill Evans, Chief Economist for Westpac | Property Observer

Westpac now expects two rate cuts next year from the RBA with the cash rate cut to 0.25% in June 2020. Quantitative Easing is also expected to begin in the second half of 2020.

Westpac has not changed its rate call for the RBA since July 24 this year. At that time we envisaged two more cuts from the RBA in October 2019 and in February 2020.

That would have seen the terminal cash rate in this cycle at 0.5%.

We expected that the final cut in February would have been insufficient to provide the RBA with enough comfort that the economy was moving into line with their growth; inflation; and unemployment targets.

Consequently, we expected that the RBA would have seen the need for unconventional policies, largely centred around the purchase of Australian government securities and clear forward guidance, to maintain the emphasis that it was still easing policy.

That emphasis was going to be important to maintain downward pressure on the Australian dollar, in particular.

Of course there was always the option to push the cash rate even lower than 0.5% but we assessed that the RBA would see the impact on confidence and inflationary expectations of even lower rates to be counter-productive.

The minutes of the November RBA Board meeting provided some support to our view when it was noted the Board “also discussed the possibility that a further reduction in interest rates could have a different effect on confidence than in the past, when interest rates were at higher levels”.

That observation was certainly consistent with the 5.5% fall in the Westpac MI Consumer Sentiment Index following the announcement of the rate cut in October. Concerns around the implications of ultra- low rates for the state of the economy along with negative publicity around the limited impact of rate cuts on private sector rates are likely to have largely explained that development.

Indeed, since the RBA started this current easing cycle, the Index has fallen by 4.2% to now be firmly in the range where pessimists outnumber optimists.

However in a speech to the Australian Business Economists last night the Governor stated, “Our current thinking is that QE becomes an option to be considered at a cash rate of 0.25%, but not before that.” During the presentation he noted that 0.25% represents the Effective Lower Bound of the cash rate as the interest rate paid on reserves at the RBA is 25bp under the prevailing cash rate and therefore would mean the “Reserve Bank would already be at zero”.

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