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Reserve Bank warns of more interest rate rises

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Australian mortgage holders should be prepared for further interest rate hikes as the Reserve Bank attempts to reduce inflation, its governor says.

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Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe today said the bank board was committed to doing what is necessary to ensure inflation returns to the two to three per cent target, with interest rate hikes part of its response.

“Australians should be prepared for more interest rate increases,” Lowe told a Chamber of Commerce forum in Sydney on Tuesday.

“The level of interest rates is still very low for an economy with low unemployment and that is experiencing high inflation.”

The RBA board has raised the cash rate at its past two monthly meetings by a total of 75 basis points, the latter being a 50 basis point increase and the largest rise since February 2000.

“We decided to make a bigger, 50 basis points adjustment on the basis of the additional information suggesting a further upward revision to an already high inflation forecast,” Lowe said.

“The board also gave consideration to the fact that the level of interest rates was still very low.”

Lowe also said “we don’t see a recession on the horizon”, adding: “But if the last two years has taught us anything, you can’t rule anything out.”

He said while that rising inflation had been driven by global events, increasingly domestic factors in Australia were coming into play.

“Following the strong recovery from the pandemic, growth in domestic spending is now testing the ability of the economy to meet the demand for goods and services.”

“This is particularly evident in the labour market, with many firms reporting that the availability of labour is a significant constraint on their ability to operate and/or expand.”

Petrol prices have also risen further due to global developments and the outlooks for retail electricity and gas prices have been revised higher due to pressures on capacity in that sector.

The RBA raised its inflation forecast to a peak of around seven per cent in the December quarter, having earlier predicted a top of six per cent.

“High inflation damages the economy, reduces the purchasing power of people’s incomes and devalues people’s savings,” Lowe said.

“It is also regressive, hurting most those who are least well equipped to protect themselves.”

As such, it is important the RBA charts a way back to the two to three per cent inflation target, although Lowe conceded this can’t be done immediately.

Economists are predicting another 50 basis point rise in July, which would take the cash rate to 1.35 per cent.

“I want to emphasise though that we are not on a pre-set path,” Lowe said.

“How fast we increase interest rates, and how far we need to go, will be guided by the incoming data and the board’s assessment of the outlook for inflation and the labour market.”

-with AAP

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