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The Reserve Bank has delivered some badly needed relief to mortgage holders, deciding today to leave official interest rates on hold.

For the first time since February, the RBA board did not use its monthly meeting to lift rates which now stand at 4.5 per cent.

In a statement, bank governor Glenn Stevens said the issues around sovereign debt in Europe and its impact on financial markets were a major reason behind the move.

He said the impact of these on the wider economy were still to be determined, arguing global growth is still expected to be around trend for the rest of this year.

But Mr Stevens signalled interest rates were likely in the future on the back of the return of the mining boom.

“In Australia, with the high level of the terms of trade expected to add to incomes and demand, output growth over the year ahead is likely to be about trend, even though the effects of earlier expansionary policy measures will be diminishing,” he said.

“Inflation appears likely to be in the upper half of the target zone over the next year.

Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

The decision followed new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which showed retail sales growing 0.6 per cent in April and a 14.8 per cent collapse in dwelling approvals.

However, the retail sales – while stronger than expected – were pushed up by food sales which jumped 1.3 per cent. Once this sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of all sales, is excluded retail was up just 0.1 per cent.

Other ABS figures showed government spending is holding up the economy and will add about 0.8 percentage points to tomorrow’s GDP result. Without that burst, the economy may have actually contracted in the March quarter.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said the figures showed the RBA had no option but to leave rates where they are for some time to come.

“Given the latest round of data, there are good reasons for the Reserve Bank to leave rates on hold for the next few months,” he said.

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the Reserve Bank’s decision to leave the official cash rate unchanged is a “welcome relief”.

“This news will be welcome relief to Australian families and businesses around the country, who are of course doing it tough,” Mr Swan told parliament minutes after the decision was announced.

The national accounts for the March quarter are due for release on Wednesday.

“I have every confidence that with right polices in place, our economy can continue to be one of the best in the world over coming years,” Mr Swan said. Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

“Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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MUM and dad investors will receive generous concessions to park their savings with banks and building societies as part of sweeping tax reforms.

The Rudd Government is preparing to unveil a new savings scheme offering tax breaks similar to superannuation’s discount rate of 15 per cent, The Daily Telegraph reports.

It will encourage investors to deposit savings with the four major banks and other respected financial institutions.

But investors will have to “lock up” their savings — perhaps for between five and 10 years — to qualify for the special rate.

The new savings deal will be announced as part of the Government’s much-anticipated response to the Henry tax review.

It will be part of a suite of measures aimed at building a new savings culture in Australia.

But it is also hoped it will generate billions of dollars in bank deposits, cutting the need for finance houses to borrow from overseas.

The Government expects it will be popular with voters who currently face punishing tax rates on savings. Some taxpayers can pay up to 50 per cent on interest earned from their bank deposits.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world to tax bank savings at the full rate.

Among key reforms, taxpayers will be able to lodge their annual tax returns with a few clicks of a mouse.

And Australia’s antiquated tax system — containing 125 different taxes — will be streamlined to simplify arrangements.

It is understood the Reserve Bank and other financial authorities have raised concerns about the steady decline in deposits.

Bank CEOs have been lobbying Canberra for changes to taxation on ordinary bank deposits, claiming the superannuation industry gets a huge advantage.

And they have a strong ally in Treasury boss Dr Ken Henry, who has also raised concerns over the punitive rates faced by those who save with banks.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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West Australians expect the biggest pay rises of any workers in the country, believing the global recession is over and the mining boom has arrived.

A report by Westpac has found 14 per cent of West Australians expect a pay rise of at least 8 per cent over the coming year, while another 21 per cent think they’ll get a rise of between 4 per cent and 8 per cent.

It is the highest proportion of workers in any State who think they will be rewarded with a wage rise two or three times the rate of inflation.

And in a sign of the confidence of WA workers, just 0.4 per cent of those surveyed say they will have a pay cut – the lowest proportion of any State. By contrast, more than 6 per cent of South Australians fear they will have their pay cut while just 19 per cent expect a pay rise of at least 4 per cent.

More than 35 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 expect a pay rise of at least 8 per cent compared to less than 10 per cent of people aged 55-64. While 35 per cent of respondents who earn more than $100,000 a year expect at least an 8 per cent rise, less than half of those earning under $40,000 expect any pay rise.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said that despite signs of optimism, Australian consumers were increasingly conservative. While household disposable income had grown almost 8 per cent last year, close to the fastest rate in 19 years, consumer spending had lifted just 2.2 per cent or the slowest in 16 years.

“And then there is the news that 70 per cent of Commonwealth Bank home loan customers are ahead in their loan repayments – making higher repayments than they need to,” he said. “How long this new conservatism continues remains anybody’s guess.”

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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THE market odds have moved firmly against an interest rate rise by the Reserve Bank in February.

The sharp change in direction, which began on Tuesday after the central bank revealed its December 1 meeting minutes, accelerated yesterday following a speech by RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino.

Mr Battellino signalled that rates could stay on hold when the RBA next meets in February, saying the “overall stance” of monetary policy was “back in the normal range”.

His comments, at the Australian Finance & Banking Conference in Sydney, surprised the markets, triggering a slump in the Australian dollar to below US90.

Last night the dollar was hovering around US89.70.

Financial market betting on a 25-basis point rate hike in February retreated from a 67 per cent chance to 45 per cent.

Mr Battellino said that although the cash rate still seemed “unusually low” at 3.75 per cent, monetary policy was back “in the normal range” because the current level of deposit, housing and business lending rates made the cash rate equivalent to a “before the crisis” level of 4.75 per cent.

“Taking these considerations into account, it would be reasonable to conclude that the overall stance of monetary policy is now back in the normal range, though in the expansionary segment of that range,” he said.

The deputy governor’s remarks were made half an hour after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed economic growth in the September quarter was weaker than expected.

The national accounts showed GDP edged up just 0.2 per cent in the three months to September, half the pace of growth expected by the market, for an annual rate of 0.5 per cent.

The main drag on growth was a slump in exports which coincided with a jump in imports.

However, demand from households, businesses buying more equipment and government investment was solid.

ANZ acting chief economist Warren Hogan said the GDP figures indicated there was little urgency to get official interest rates back to a neutral setting, adding that Mr Battellino’s comments had “dealt a solid blow” to the prospect of substantial gains in the cash rate over coming months.

“Put another way, the emergency setting for interest rates has now been removed and policy will be adjusted as and when required by economic conditions,” he said.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly told reporters after the bank’s annual meeting in Melbourne yesterday that the RBA was likely to raise rates “very carefully” in 2010.

However, she said the official cash rate was not quite yet at a “normal” level.

Mrs Kelly said she remained cautious about the economic outlook while the bank’s chairman Ted Evans said a “V-shaped” recovery for Australia was unlikely.

“It will be a long recovery and that’s what our plans are based on,” he said. 

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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There’s more pain on the way for Australia’s borrowers with the Reserve Bank today raising interest rates for the third time in as many months.

As widely tipped, the central bank lifted its key cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent following its monthly board meeting. It’s the first time the RBA has lifted rates three months in a row. (Click here for economists’ reaction, including Michael Pascoe and Peter Martin.)

”In Australia, the downturn was relatively mild, and measures of confidence and business conditions suggest that the economy is in a gradual recovery,” RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said in a statement accompanying the rates verdict. The central bank’s ”gradual” increases in rates will ”work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity,” he said.

For a typical mortgage holder on a $300,000 mortgage, today’s rate rise will add about $47 to monthly repayments, assuming commercial banks match the RBA’s move. Officials for most of the major banks this afternoon said their rates policies were under review.

The Reserve Bank has made regular public comments in recent weeks that it sees no need to keep interest rates at ”emergency” levels as the economy rebounds from a slowdown during the past year. Ric Battelino, the RBA’s deputy governor, last week said the economy’s growth is likely to extend ”for a few more years yet.”

More to rises come

Still, the economic data continue to provide mixed readings. A measure of manufacturing activity in November out today showed the sector continues to grow with companies adding jobs, although the stronger Australian dollar slowed the pace of expansion.

Overall building approvals, meanwhile, surprisingly fell 0.6 per cent in October, according to other figures out today. A 5 per cent gain in approvals for private homes was countered by a 19 per cent drop in permits for flats and townhouses.

Even with today’s rate increase, the Reserve Bank’s efforts to tighten monetary policy are likely to be far from over.

”The big change in this statement was their reference to the increases so far as being material,” ANZ’s head of Australian economics Warren Hogan told Reuters.

”I read that as implying that they’re ready to now sit back and watch how these increases affect the economy. And the hurdle for further rate hikes will be much higher than we have seen so far.

“So I think our view that they’re going to 4 (per cent), 4.25 then sit there for much of the year is the right one. There’s every chance they’ll do it in February and March, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dragged out over a number of months.”

JP Morgan’s Chief Economist Stephen Walters agreed that the RBA may make it four rate rises in a row: “With inflation likely to creep up, and the worst in the economy having passed, there is no need to keep rates at very expansionary levels.”

“We think they will again lift rates in February,” Mr Walters

said. ”The RBA does not meet in January, but I think they will hike when they return after the break. The word ‘gradual’ is still there in the RBA statement and I think they will start going slow in lifting after February.”

Before today’s move, investors were betting that rates would rise to at least 4.75 per cent in a year’s time – equivalent to four more rate rises over the period. Three weeks ago, however, the betting was for rates to rise to 5.25 per cent, indicating confidence in the economy’s strength has recently diminished.

The RBA’s board is not scheduled to meet again until next February.

Political view

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the rate rise would pinch household funds.

”This is tough for families…when rates go up it has an impact on the family budget,” Mr Swan told reporters.

He took aim at old comments from new Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the government’s billion-dollar stimulus had led to interest rates rises.

”That is laughable and it comes from a political leader who is prone to making erratic statements,” Mr Swan said.

”Mr Abbott is in denial of the fact that this country has performed well in the global recession.”

Even with the latest jump, these rates were last seen in 1967, Mr Swan said.

Mild downturn

A year ago, the Reserve Bank was in the midst of a series of deep interest rate cuts as Australia joined other countries in attempting to limit the damage from the global financial crisis.

Last December, the RBA sliced one full percentage point from its cash rate, lowering it to 4.25 per cent on the way to a fifty year-low of 3 per cent by April. After a pause, the central bank has started to lift rates back towards more normal levels as fears of an economic crunch abate.

”The effects of the early stages of the fiscal stimulus on consumer demand are fading, but public infrastructure spending is starting to provide more impetus to demand,” Mr Stevens said in his statement today.

The jobless rate has been one of the surprises, with Australia’s unemployment holding well below 6 per cent when many had predicted a level in excess of 8 per cent. Business investment has also held up well in large measure due to the sharp rebound in China and India – leaving Australia as one of the few countries to start raising rates.

”Prospects for ongoing expansion of private demand, including business investment, have been strengthening. There have been some early signs of an improvement in labour market conditions,” Mr Steven said. ”The rate of unemployment is now likely to peak at a considerably lower level than earlier expected.”

The RBA believes economic growth ”is likely to be close to trend (in 2010) and inflation close to target.

Market response

In the aftermath of the rates news, the Aussie dollar initially dropped before recovering to about 91.5 US cents in recent trading, close to its level before the RBA statement.

Shares, also turned mildly lower before recovering to be about 0.2 per cent higher for the day with less than an hour of trading left.

Source :   www.theage.com.au

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The ANZ has become the first major bank to lift its mortgage interest rates, announcing this morning it will lift rates by a quarter percentage point.anz

Following the Reserve Bank’s decision on Tuesday to lift the official cash rate, all the big four had held fire on following suit – until today.

The ANZ tried to dampen the pain of the move, saying it would also increase interest rates on some of its deposit products by a half percentage point.

The increase on ANZ mortgages, which will take the standard variable rate to 6.06 per cent, will kick in from next Monday.

As well, fixed rate mortgages at ANZ will go up by a quarter percentage point – to 5.7 per cent for a one year fixed rate mortgage and 6.69 per cent for a two year mortgage.

Longer term mortgages will go up less, while the 10 year term rate will be cut by a quarter percentage point.

Treasurer Wayne Swan had warned all banks against lifting their mortgage rates by more than the Reserve Bank’s increase in the official cash rate.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)  is due to announce its decision on interest rates at 2.30pm (AEST) on Tuesday.
The economists surveyed by AAP said the cash rate will remain at a 49 year low of three per cent after the central bank’s board meeting on August 4.

“The RBA appears to have no intention of reducing the cash rate any further,” said Matt Robinson, an economist with Moody’s Economy.com. reserve_bank_400

“I think a housing market bubble is starting to form, and given the sentiment that governor Stevens expressed in his speech to the Australian Business Economists, that is something that the RBA is watching and that would be a reason for them to maybe hike interest rates earlier.”

There were doubts about whether the RBA would be deterred from raising rates if unemployment continued to rise.

The RBA has kept the cash rate at 3 per cent for three consecutive months.

Michael Turner, an economist with financial markets research group 4Cast, said the prospect of rising unemployment would mean the cental bank could keep rates steady until well into 2010.

“We’re still of the opinion the worse is yet to come and things look better now than they did a couple of months ago, which is why we’re now calling it on hold (in August) rather than going lower,” he said.

“But we still think there’s enough of a story in the lack of utilisation in the economy at the moment that price pressure might be moderate enough at 3 per cent.

“We’re currently chewing on a rate rise in 2010 at the moment. It’s possible, but not until late 2010.”

If you look at the split in the market or the way the debate was being conducted it was very much the idea that the RBA isn’t going to hike because they never have while the jobless rate has been rising.

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