RBA lifts interest rates again

November 7, 2023 BY

Today's decision on interest rates is the second Michele Bullock has made on since becoming governor in September. Photo: MICK TSIKAS/AAP IMAGE

THE festive season has been soured by another round of interest rate pain, following the Reserve Bank board’s decision that more tightening is needed to drive inflation down.

The 25 basis point hike (Tuesday, November 7) has taken the cash rate to 4.35 per cent.

After lifting interest rates assertively since May last year, the RBA has been on hold at 4.1 per cent for four months in a row, suggesting the tightening cycle was drawing to a close.

Markets implied a 50-50 chance of a hike today, yet economics teams at all big four banks were in favour of a 25 basis point increase.

RBA governor Michele Bullock is wary of a slower return to target than the 2025 forecasted timeline for fear inflation expectations are becoming unanchored.

The concern is that once households come to expect high levels of inflation into the future, they adjust their behaviour accordingly and this influences actual price movements.

The board considered an updated set of economic forecasts alongside strong inflation data – particularly underlying measures – and signs of relative resilience in household spending and the labour market.

Yet some economists warned further tightening may be unnecessary as the economy is already starting to slow and interest rate hikes take time to work through the economy.

Australia Institute chief economist Greg Jericho said households were struggling from the 400 basis points of tightening and wage growth falling short of the rising cost of living.

He said the top contributors to the strong September quarter inflation data were largely essentials, and spending more on these goods means less is left over to spend, helping to lower demand.

“An interest rate rise is not needed … it will hammer demand that is already weak,” he said yesterday (Monday, November 6).

The International Monetary Fund also called on the government to do more to contain inflation so borrowers bear less of the burden of fighting high inflation.

While the organisation called for more monetary tightening, it urged state and federal governments to take pressure off inflation by slowing down the pipeline of public infrastructure projects.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King acknowledged the role of the expansive infrastructure pipeline on price pressures and said the government was searching for opportunities to streamline it.