A glimmer of hope: Australia anticipates interest rate relief

By Our Reporter

Australian mortgage holders, who have been grappling with a relentless surge in interest rates, might finally see a reversal in this trend. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which has been at the forefront of these increases, could be on the verge of altering its course. This potential shift in monetary policy emerges against a backdrop of dynamic inflation rates and global economic fluctuations, signalling a transformative phase in Australia’s financial environment.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australian borrowers might not have to brace for further interest rate hikes in the immediate future. The OECD projects that the cash rate, currently at 4.35 per cent, will be maintained until at least the third quarter of the next year. This projection marks a significant shift from the continuous upward trend in interest rates that has been the norm for over a year.

The Paris-based organisation also forecasts a gradual reduction in rates by a total of 0.75 per cent, bringing the cash rate down to 3.6 per cent by the end of 2025. This reduction is a response to the expected moderation in inflation, influenced by the easing of global inflationary pressures. The OECD anticipates that inflation will align with the RBA’s target range of 2-3 per cent by early 2025, a prediction that precedes the RBA’s own forecast of late-2025.

Recent statistics show a slight easing in Australia’s annual inflation rate, which fell to 4.9 per cent in October, a decrease from 5.6 per cent in September. This drop surpassed the expectations of many economists and brings a positive note ahead of the RBA’s meeting scheduled for December.

In terms of interest rate decisions, all of Australia’s Big Four banks – Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), and National Australia Bank (NAB) – concur that the cash rate is likely to remain unchanged in the upcoming Tuesday meeting. While CBA, Westpac, and ANZ believe that the current cycle’s peak has been reached, NAB alone forecasts a potential rate hike in the early part of the new year.

The OECD’s economic outlook for 2024 suggests a somewhat sluggish year for Australia, with a predicted slowdown in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth from 1.9 per cent in 2023 to 1.4 per cent in 2024, before a recovery to 2.1 per cent in 2025. This slowdown is attributed to the dual pressures of high interest rates and the increasing cost of living, which are expected to constrain spending by households and businesses in the coming year.

However, the report indicates that these challenges will be partly offset by positive factors such as strong working-age population growth and a boost in exports, aided by the return of foreign students. Additionally, the unemployment rate, currently at a low of 3.7 per cent, is predicted to rise moderately to 4.4 per cent by mid-2025.

While the Australian economy faces a blend of challenges and growth opportunities, the prospect of stabilising interest rates offers a much-needed respite for mortgage holders. This development, combined with the expected moderation in inflation, paints a cautiously optimistic picture for Australia’s economic landscape in the coming years.

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