Australian business owners can breathe a sigh of relief after Reserve Bank Governor Michele Bullock left the rates unchanged for the year’s first meeting.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept the rates steady at 4.35%.
“We are fighting inflation,” says Bullock. For the last two decades before the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation was at about 2%. “But the situation has changed, and it’s obvious that we’re fighting inflation. It hurts all Australians.”
There has been a “rapid rise” in interest rates over the last 18 months to two years as a ripple effect of the pandemic’s economic challenges.
Addressing a media conference today, Bullock says the Monetary Policy Board had to remove all of that “stimulus that we had from the pandemic… which means we have to get interest rates into restricted territory.”
Acknowledging the knock-on effect on consumers, Bullock says the board understands that people are financially battling, and inflation is the biggest culprit. “We have made good progress” to reduce inflation so far, says the board, but there “is more work to do.”
Cost-of-living fears looking ahead
There is a sense of understanding of the financial pressure households, and businesses are placed under with the cost of living. But Bullock says the “aim is to get inflation down.”
Although it has at least not gone up higher this time, there are concerns about when inflation will finally return to normal pre-COVID levels. “We were expecting that inflation will return to the target range of 2% to 3% in 2025. And it will reach the midpoint of the target range in 2026,” however, there are a few risks that the RB is mindful of.
While inflation remains above target, there is a risk that inflationary expectations will drift further. “So that’s a risk we’re concerned about because it would be costly to address if that happens. On the other hand, the recent weakness in household consumption could go on longer than expected. That’s a risk, too.”
Monitoring the data
Staying on track, the Reserve Bank will monitor developments closely to ensure the economy “remains on track for inflation to return to target.”
“So really what we’re looking for is data which convinces us and helps us to reassure us that inflation is coming back to target within that time frame. (2025-2026)”
“The board is very conscious of (unemployment figures), and that gets a lot of attention in board meetings,” says Bullock while fielding questions about concerns of labor cuts due to financial pressure on businesses.
She agrees that the labor market is still a bit “tight”; however, job opportunities and employment are still growing. “We are very conscious that employment is very important for people.
While businesses are still under pressure to pay the bills and salaries while hoping for a profit, there is a bit of celebration for now.
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