Australian Economy

Economists seek rate clues in RBA speech

Economists will be listening intently to a speech by one of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s top economic officials for any clues to the likely speed of interest rate hikes in coming months.

RBA assistant governor for economics Luci Ellis will on Wednesday address the Urban Development Institute of Australia 2022 national conference in Sydney on “Housing in the Endemic Phase”.

The central bank raised the cash rate to 0.35 per cent from a record low 0.1 per cent this month, the first increase in over a decade, in the face of a spike in inflation to 5.1 per cent.

The minutes of that board meeting agreed that further increases in interest rates would likely be required to ensure inflation returns to the two to three per cent target over time.

At this stage, economists are predicting a further interest rate rise of between 25 basis points and 50 basis points at its June 7 board meeting, and a rate of over 1.5 per cent by early next year.

RBA assistant governor for financial markets Christopher Kent said the central bank is just easing off the stimulatory accelerator.

“There is more of that to come,” Dr Kent told a conference earlier this week.

The June meeting will have the advantage of seeing how the economy performed in the first three months of 2022 with the national accounts due on June 1.

Despite outgoing prime minister Scott Morrison having boasted about Australia’s strong economy during the six-week election campaign, the March quarter results may not be as upbeat.

Economists at RBC Capital Markets say while retail spending continues to play catch-up after the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, another large contraction is expected from net exports.

At this stage they are predicting a slim 0.75 per cent expansion for the March quarter, which would see the annual growth result retreat to 3.5 per cent from 4.2 per cent over 2021.

Over the next week the Australian Bureau of Statistics will release a series of economic figures that contribute to the overall growth result, kicking off with March quarter construction data on Wednesday.

Economists’ forecasts point to a 0.9 per cent increase in construction work completed in the quarter, recovering from a 0.4 per cent decline in the previous three months.

Business capital expenditure on Thursday is expected to have risen 1.3 per cent in the March quarter, building on the 1.1 per cent gain in the December quarter.

Next Tuesday the ABS will release international trade, business profits and inventories, and government finances figures for the quarter.

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