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Inflation's Tug of War: Implications for Rate Hikes in August

Inflation's Tug of War: Implications for Rate Hikes in August

With inflation persistently on the rise, Australian homeowners brace for potential interest rate hikes as early as August.
New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that inflation remained at a worrisome 4% annually by May 2024, causing increasing concern among economists and the general public alike.

The most dramatic rises were noted in housing (up 5.2%), alcohol and tobacco (up 6.7%), and transportation (up 4.9%). With these figures, inflation has climbed from 3.4% in February to its current position, leading many experts to predict imminent rate adjustments.

This adverse inflation report has prompted many, including Betashares' chief economist David Bassanese, to foresee significant upward pressure on interest rates. "The annual inflation measures have stuck stubbornly around 4%, and this spells trouble for controlling economic stability," noted Bassanese.

For Deutsche Bank, the expectation is clear: a rise in interest rates to around 4.6% is on the cards at the August meeting. Factors compounding the inflation issue include unexpectedly high immigration, significant infrastructure projects, and elevated costs in health and personal services, among others.

  1. Higher costs in housing and basic services.
  2. Continued pressure on energy prices due to climate change.
  3. Failing government policies exacerbating the issue.

Despite weak consumer spending, these entrenched inflation drivers have forced analysts like Bassanese to acknowledge profound systemic failures at both federal and state levels. Adding to these woes, the reluctance of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to reduce rates anytime soon could see future hikes implemented to combat prolonged inflationary tendencies.

Financial services leader Steve Mickenbecker from Canstar also warned that the RBA is gearing up for potential increases. He argues that with scant indicators of inflation nearing the target range, delaying any hikes would unnecessarily prolong economic pain for borrowers. For instance, a modest rate hike of 0.25% could elevate monthly repayments on a $600,000 home loan by $100.

Furthermore, tax cuts and living cost relief measures set to commence next month may spur further consumer spending, countering the RBA's efforts to restrain household expenses. Moody's Analytics' Harry Murphy Cruise expressed concerns that most household savings will possibly be spent quickly and could intensify inflationary pressures.

Economist Anneke Thompson of CreditorWatch further elaborates that the unprecedented migration levels have driven up demand across non-discretionary services and housing, prompting businesses within these sectors to hike prices. While a slowdown in net migration is anticipated, the impact on broader economic equilibrium will take time.

Meanwhile, KPMG’s chief economist Brendan Rynne believes the RBA may not rush to push rates even higher but predicts they will remain elevated for an extended period. He’s talking about the first significant rate cuts only being feasible by February 2025.

Rynne further correlates Australia's inflation trajectory with the US, which had experienced similar inflation patterns with a slight time lag. Notably, the US saw a biphasic inflation curve - with a resurgence before a subsequent decline, a pattern Australia might similarly follow.

In addressing the broader economic implications, RBA Assistant Governor Chris Kent acknowledged the challenge higher rates pose for families, suggesting that present cash rates are already in restrictive territory. According to Paul Bloxham, HSBC’s chief economist, this assertion aligns with the RBA's wary stance against tightening further while simultaneously achieving economic balance.

Published:Saturday, 29th Jun 2024
Source: Paige Estritori

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Guarantor:
A party who agrees to be responsible for the payment of another party's debts should the original party fail to pay or perform according to a contract.


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