Australia RBA: after rapid tightening, may be case for slower hikes


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SYDNEY — Australia’s top central banker on Thursday said the case for a slowdown in rate rises would get stronger the higher rates go, though ultimately how far they needed to rise would depend on incoming data on inflation and jobs.

In a speech on the policy outlook, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe said further rate increases would be needed to contain inflation but the RBA Board was not on a pre-set path and was aware rates had already risen sharply.

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“We are conscious that there are lags in the operation of monetary policy and that interest rates have increased very quickly,” said Lowe.

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“And we recognize that, all else equal, the case for a slower pace of increase in interest rates becomes stronger as the level of the cash rate rises.”

Earlier this week, the central bank lifted interest rates by half a point to a seven-year high of 2.35%, bringing the increase since May to a steep 225 basis points.

“But how high interest rates need to go and how quickly we get there will be guided by the incoming data and the evolving outlook for inflation and the labor market,” Lowe added.

Financial markets are divided on whether the RBA will hike by another outsized 50 basis points in October or shift to more normal moves of 25 basis points.

Yet they also imply a series of hikes still lie ahead taking rates to a peak around 3.7% by May next year.

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Lowe emphasized the Board was committed to bring inflation back to its 2-3% target over time, having been surprised by this year’s spike in consumer prices to a 21-year peak of 6.1%.

He said it was important that current high level of inflation not get built into expectations for price- and wage-settings and noted that, so far, measures of expectations were still consistent with a return to the 2-3% band.

He also noted that log jams in the global supply chain were easing and commodity prices had pulled back, which could help restrain inflation over time.

“Some slowing in the global economy will help bring inflation down, but a sharp slowing would make the job of delivering a soft landing here in Australia much harder,” he added. (Reporting by Wayne Cole Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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