Westpac chief economist Bill Evans has continued to revise expectations of the next RBA cash rate cut but is sticking with his forecast of at least one more reduction in 2012.
But he is rapidly running out of monetary policy meetings for this to happen, with November now tipped by Evans as the next likely time the RBA will move.
If the forecast were to be pushed back even further, this would only leave December 4 for one more rate cut in 2012 – a far cry from Evans’ end-of-May forecast of a 2.75% cash rate by year-end.
The RBA does not meet in January.
Evans was most bullish at the end of May, following the 5o-basis-point cash rate cut, correctly forecasting a 25-basis-point rate cut in June.
However, expectations of further rate cuts in July and August did not eventuate. Evans also said at the time that he expected another rate cut in the fourth quarter, bringing the cash rate down to a record low of 2.75%.
These expectations have been revised back over the last few months as the property market shows some signs of life, unemployment remains low and the domestic economy performs in line with expectations.
Following yesterday’s RBA decision to keep the cash rate on hold in August, Evans said the subsequent monetary policy decision statement suggested November was now the most likely month for the next rate cut.
“[Yesterday’s] monetary policy decision statement gave little encouragement that a move in September can be expected, and it may be that even October will be a little early given the likely 0.8% print for GDP growth in the June quarter on September 5,” Evans said.
On July 17 Evans pushed back Westpac’s forecast for the next rate cut from August to either October or November.
Evans is by no means the only economists to back-track on rate cut forecasts, with the Commonwealth Bank’s Michael Blythe also pushing back forecasts from August to November.
“The main pressure for lower rates reflects global risks – either directly through slower growth and financial market volatility or indirectly through lower commodity prices and a falling terms-of-trade. We retain a rate cut in our forecast profile for November partly as a reflection of those risks,” Blythe said.
However, Evans’ revisions will be eagerly followed.
He was the first noted economist to tip the RBA to begin its current rate cutting cycle in November last year, tipping it as early as mid-2011 – while other economists did not foresee a rate cut and some even forecast rates to rise.
Analysing yesterday’s statement from the RBA, Evans found comments to encourage both interest rate doves and hawks.
He said the statement included “subtle changes in the wording around some of the risks to the outlook” but that there was “nothing that would indicate a material change in the bank’s ‘wait and see’ attitude”.
But he said there was still some encouragement in the governor’s wording for “doves” like Westpac, which is forecasting a December quarter rate cut.
“Whereas in July he referred to the unemployment rate remaining low in this statement he notes “unemployment has THUS FAR remained low”.
“This may be partly in response to the rise in the unemployment rate from 5.1% to 5.2% as reported for June.
“The doves also received some encouragement when he referred to inflation being expected to be consistent with the target “over the next one to two years” – no time period was given in the July statement.
“On inflation we are also aware that the vank is concerned to see domestic costs slow due to the likely eventual rise in traded inflation when the exchange rate stabilises.
“In this statement he recognised that there was some evidence that domestic costs had slowed noting “domestic costs [are required to] continue their recent moderation.
“Finally the doves will be encouraged that there appears to be an air of concern around the fact that the exchange rate has remained high despite the decline in the terms of trade,” Evans noted.
However, Evans also noted that there were a few comments in the governor’s statement to “encourage the hawks”.
“The governor noted that “Australian banks have had not difficulty in accessing funding”. He pointed out that “dwelling prices have firmed a little over the past couple of months” and of course is now describing growth as “close to trend”.
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