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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Reserve Bank gears up for another close cash rate call

Mortgage holders will be hoping the central bank board opts to keep interest rates on hold and stops adding more to their monthly repayments.

The Reserve Bank of Australia board is set to make another tough interest rate decision in the fight against persistent but tempering inflation.

Board members will weigh up strong but somewhat unreliable monthly inflation data - which came in at 6.8 per cent in April, up from 6.3 per cent in March - as well as signs of an easing but still robust jobs market.

The central bank is also considering fresh wage data, which revealed pay packets growing at 3.7 per cent in the March quarter.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said the government was doing what it could to take pressure off inflation.

"We understand that households and businesses are doing it tough, which is why in this latest budget we put such an emphasis on providing some practical cost-of-living relief measures - medicines, health care, child care, energy - practical things that we can do without blowing up the inflation problem," Mr Jones told AAP on Tuesday.

Wage growth alone is unlikely to worry the RBA, which is comfortable with wages hitting a peak of four per cent annual growth.

But Governor Philip Lowe remains concerned about unit labour costs - the difference between wages growth and productivity growth.

Dr Lowe told a federal parliamentary hearing last week that sluggish productivity growth, not wages, was complicating the RBA's job of returning inflation to its two to three per cent target.

Some economists have also flagged the Fair Work Commission's minimum wage decision as a possible cause for concern that could push pay packets higher than the RBA can manage.

But Workplace Minister Tony Burke said the minimum wage rise of 8.6 per cent would not lead to higher inflation.

He said the argument that those on the minimum wage would cause inflation to spike did not stack up.

"Some people effectively (have wanted) to blame workers for any decision that the Reserve Bank might make," Mr Burke told ABC Radio.

"The people affected by the annual wage review are the people on the lowest incomes. They're the people relying on it."

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the government needed to prioritise bringing down inflation.

"The sad reality is the Reserve Bank is under enormous pressure now to raise interest rates," he told ABC TV.

"There is enormous pressure on cost of living out there and that means there's pressure on interest rates and, sadly, we are in a position where the expectations of markets and economists say we're going to see more pain."

Against a backdrop of economic complexity and uncertainty, most experts agree there is a live debate between a pause and another 25 basis point hike when the RBA board meets on Tuesday afternoon.

A survey of 39 economists by comparison site Finder found slightly more than half expect the cash rate to stay on hold at 3.85 per cent.

Another hike would likely take the cash rate to 4.1 per cent and mark the 12th interest rate rise since May 2022. 

For mortgage holders, another 25 basis points would add an extra $1217 to monthly repayments, cumulatively, on the standard $500,000, 30-year home loan.


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