RBA will have an easy decision today

In a unanimous verdict, Australia’s leading experts and economists are calling a cash rate hold today (Tuesday, 7th February), but previous cash rate decisions haven’t had the desired effect on the Australian dollar.

All 32 experts and economists from the finder.com.au RBA survey are expecting the cash rate to be left untouched for February 2017. 

While the Reserve Bank is likely to pursue a “wait and see” strategy by keeping the cash rate at 1.5% this month, expectations of a rate rise are in the pipeline.

More than half of experts and economists (58%) think the next cash rate move will be up, however just over half of these respondents don’t expect a rise to occur until 2018.

Interestingly, five experts and economists (17%) are expecting a rate rise to be enforced this year, with three predicting this will happen as early as April or May.

Citing global uncertainty, survey respondents believe the Bank will keep a close eye on the activities of the United States under a new presidency. 

Graham Cooke, Insights Manager at finder says we may be nearing the bottom of the cash rate cycle.

"It's widely expected the next move will be north, so the cash rate may have reached its lowest point this cycle.

“However, we’re likely to see a stagnant period as movement isn’t widely expected in the first half of this year. 

“Both inflation and economic growth remain areas of concern for the Bank, but gross domestic product (GDP) data released in March should provide greater clarity for what the Bank will do in 2017,” he says.

However, of the economists who are expecting a rate drop (13, 42%), most of this group (9) are forecasting a rate cut to come by June 2017.

When asked about the impact of rate decisions on the local currency, 65% of experts who opted into this question, believe the Banks' cash rate decisions aren’t applying significant downward pressure on the Australian Dollar.

“With this in mind, the Australian dollar has remained relatively high despite the cash rate being cut twice last year in May and August.

“Since the start of this year, the Aussie dollar rose from 72c to just shy of 77c so cash rate cuts haven’t had the desired impact of reducing the dollar value,” he says.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Jordan Eliseo, ABC Bullion (Hold): "The RBA is likely to sit tight for a month or two, analysing all incoming data before they make their next move. They'll be worried about low inflation, but will also have one eye on resurgent investor activity in the housing space, whilst broader economic data hasn't softened enough (yet) to warrant immediate stimulus."

Shane Oliver, AMP Capital (Hold):"December quarter CPI was in line with RBA forecasts and RBA would like more time to see how the economy performs after its September quarter slump."

John Hewson, ANU (Hold):"Wait and see how things unfold, both globally under Trump, and domestically."

Richard Robinson, BIS Shrapnel (Hold):"[The] economy [is] still okay. RBA doesn't want to (or should not) [cut] because a rate cut will give a further unwelcome boost to the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets."

Paul Dales, Capital Economics (Hold):"The RBA will have to admit that economic growth both this year and next will be weaker than it previously thought, but due to the strengthening of activity overseas and the rise in the prices of Australia's main commodity prices, it won't revise down its underlying inflation forecasts by enough to trigger a rate cut."

Michael Blythe, CBA (Hold):"RBA unlikely to cut against a backdrop of higher commodity prices and still hot housing market."

Savanth Sebastian, CommSec (Hold):"The Reserve Bank is comfortable on the interest rate sidelines. Will wait on more timely data, focus will be on business investment over the next six months."

Dr Andrew Wilson, Domain Group (Hold): "Should be a close call for a cut on the exposed economic data but the Bank has taken a conservative stance on settings lately so more likely to remain on hold - for now."

Scott Morgan, Greater Bank (Hold):"The economic data does not support the need to change rates."

Dr Mark Brimble, Griffith Uni (Hold):"Uncertainty and volatility in markets driven by US politics and variable economic data."

Alex Joiner, IFM Investors (Hold):"The case hasn't been made for a short term rate cut despite a softish inflation pulse."

Robert Montgomery, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (Hold):"The RBA will hold for now, but continued low inflation and GDP growth indicate further rate cuts later in 2017."

Michael Witts, ING Bank (Hold):"The economic data released locally and global developments suggest that the RBA will be on hold for an extended period."

Leanne Pilkington, Laing+Simmons (Hold):"We don’t see the Reserve Bank having the justification nor the desire for further easing after the rate cuts of last year. From a housing industry perspective, rates are already low and have been for some time, so that piece of the affordability puzzle is in place. It’s through other avenues like stamp duty reform that improvements in affordability need to addressed."