Cash Rate Remains Unchanged at 4.35 Percent in December

Measures of inflation since November have developed in line with the RBA’s expectations, prompting the bank to put the cash rate on hold for December.
Cash Rate Remains Unchanged at 4.35 Percent in December
Pedestrians walk past the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) head office in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 1, 2022. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)
Alfred Bui

Australian borrowers could be a little at ease this Christmas holiday season as the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has decided to put the official cash rate on hold for December.

In its last board meeting of the year, the RBA left the official cash rate unchanged at 4.35 percent, following a 0.25 percent increase in November.

The decision matched many economists’ expectations about a pause for December.

The RBA raised the cash rate in November because of the increasing risk that inflation would remain in the economy for a longer period of time than previously expected.

However, since then, the domestic economic data received by the board, although limited, has shown that inflation is evolving in line with the RBA’s expectations, prompting the central bank to once again suspend its interest rate hiking cycle.

“Overall, measures of inflation expectations remain consistent with the inflation target,” RBA Governor Michele Bullock said in a statement.

“The monthly CPI (consumer price index) indicator for October suggested that inflation is continuing to moderate, driven by the goods sector; the inflation update did not, however, provide much more information on services inflation.”

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the monthly CPI increased by 4.9 percent in the 12 months to October, down from 5.6 percent in the year to September.
The RBA also noted that while the labour market still remained tight, its conditions have gradually loosened, with no further significant increase in wage growth forecast for the coming period.

No More Interest Rate Rise in 2024?

Despite some improvements in inflation data, the RBA pointed out that a lot of uncertainty still hovered over the domestic and international economic outlooks.

“There also remains a high level of uncertainty around the outlook for the Chinese economy and the implications of the conflicts abroad,” Ms. Bullock said.

“Domestically, there are uncertainties regarding the lags in the effect of monetary policy and how firms’ pricing decisions and wages will respond to the slower growth in the economy at a time when the labour market remains tight.”

The RBA was also unsure about how household consumption would impact inflation in the next period due to the significant differences in the saving buffers of Australian households.

As such, the central bank has kept the option for further interest rate increases in 2024 open, saying such a decision would depend on economic data and the evolving assessment of risks.

The December interest rate decision comes after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasted that Australia was unlikely to see any more interest rate rises in 2024.

The OECD cited several reasons for its forecast, including a projected lower budget deficit in 2023 caused by a sharp rise in tax receipts from businesses and households.

It then predicted that the official cash rate would drop by 0.75 percent between the third quarter of 2024 and the end of 2025.

Australia’s big four banks also expected the RBA to cut interest rates in late 2024. However, their forecasts differed significantly regarding how much the cash rate would drop by mid-2025.
Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at [email protected].
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