RBA interest rate decision: Reserve Bank keeps Australian cash rate on hold – as it happened

Last modified: 07: 15 AM GMT+0

Sales fall 0.1% in July, pointing to weaker GDP numbers. This blog has now closed

ASX, Tokyo and Seoul close

It’s been a strange day on the markets with very little movement. But the ASX200 has closed the day down 6 points, or 0.09%, at 6,573.4.

In Tokyo the Nikkei has closed up 5 points, or 0.02%, at 20,265.

And in South Korea the Kospi has finished down 8 points, or 0.4%, at 1,961.



It’s been quiet on the markets but busy with Australia’s central bank keeping rates on hold at 1% despite loud calls for more cuts amid the economy experiencing weak growth. In South Korea, inflation hit zero. Sterling’s been hammered again ahead of that vote.

Here are the highlights:

  • Stocks have been flat in the Asian session as investors await the reopening of Wall Street later and a key US manufacturing survey.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia kept its key interest rate on hold despite a slump in retail sales of 0.1%.
  • But Australia did record its first balance of payments surplus for 44 years thanks to its massive iron ore and coal exports, inflated by the rising US dollar.
  • Inflation hit zero in South Korea, increasing the chances of rate cuts to boost growth.
  • Sterling fell 0.23% to $1.2035 in Asian trading, near two-year lows.
  • Brent crude is up slightly by 5c.
  • The FTSE100 is set to lift at the opening this morning and the Dow is also on course for a positive start in New York.

Thanks for joining me and stay tuned with Graeme Wearden on the UK blog for what promises to be a huge day in the markets there.


As Australia debates the need for a rate cut or otherwise, in South Korea the fix is almost certainly in after inflation slumped to zero in the year to August.

Weak demand is weighing on the South Korean economy.
Weak demand is weighing on the South Korean economy. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The South Korean economy has suffered for months because of the China slowdown, with exports falling for nine months in succession. The usual suspect of weak consumer demand was also at work in keeping prices down, but the less familiar factor of falling food prices thanks to better weather and harvests also weighed.

Let's take a moment to talk about South Korea lack of inflation - 0% & LOWEST EVER! Core rose 0.9%YoY. Let's not forget that PPI deflated at -0.3%YoY.

Exports are FALLING in double digits (>20% contraction from China demand). Korea needs all the help it can get👇🏻

Look at that😬 pic.twitter.com/xxRcQl61ku

— Trinh Nguyen (@Trinhnomics) September 3, 2019

The Bank of Korea (BOK) revised down economic growth for the June quarter to 1.0% on-quarter from a 1.1% gain reported earlier.

BOK senior deputy governor Yoon Myun-shik said he wasn’t worried about deflation and that inflation would pick up. But the bond market thinks otherwise as the benchmark 10-year yield shed 1.5 basis points to 1.285%, far below the central bank’s policy rate of 1.50%, and indicating rate cuts are coming.


The RBA has some supporters.

Brendan Rynne, KPMG chief economist, says the decision is the correct one:

The RBA was right to keep rates on hold at 1% today and leave any further cuts till later in the year. There was no clear reason to cut again yet and with limited ammunition left, the RBA sensibly kept its powder dry.

Capital Economics says it is among the 30 forecasters that got the rates call right today. Four apparently got it wrong. It says the bank is sounding a little more positive than of late. Amazing what a rise in house prices can do to people.

Marcel Thieliant, senior Australia & New Zealand economist at Capital, says:

The RBA sounded a touch more optimistic when it left interest rates on hold today, but we still think that further rate cuts over the coming months are likely.

Sally Auld at JP Morgan says the decision was as expected and doesn’t see much to suggest the bank will cut in October as some have suggested (notably UBS):

There is nothing in today’s statement which suggests the RBA are keen to cut again anytime soon, despite recent data which suggests another lucklustre quarterly GDP print for 2Q19 and a soggy start to 3Q partial activity data. Accordingly, not much has changed in the commentary; the paragraph on housing has a more upbeat tone, while the narrative around the economy and labour market is largely unchanged from August. As has been the case for a while now, household consumption remains the key domestic risk.


Back in Australia the judgments on Governor Lowe and his fellow board members are rolling in. Stephen Koukoulas thinks he should be hauled before a parliamentary committee to explain his failure to meet the inflation target.

It's time for Treasurer Frydenberg to haul the RBA before the Parliament and ask WTF they are doing - missing the inflation and full employment targets for such an extended period is a disgrace - many other central banks did it, not the RBA

— Stephen Koukoulas (@TheKouk) September 3, 2019

Eleanor Creagh at Saxo thinks there’s not much prospect of indebted consumers coming to the rescue:

An over-leveraged consumer who has whittled away their savings and is devoid of any material pick up in wage growth is unlikely to increase discretionary spending particularly given recent consumer sentiment surveys point to rising concerns over the economic outlook #RBA https://t.co/YXankI1oAt

— Eleanor Creagh (@Eleanor_Creagh) September 3, 2019

Callam Pickering thinks Lowe is fiddling while Rome burns.

This might be a bit melodramatic but the RBA is fiddling while Rome burns (of course they are still doing better than the federal government who have their head stuck in the sand).

— Callam Pickering (@CallamPickering) September 3, 2019


Stock markets are still subdued:

The ASX200 is down 2 points, or 0.02%, at 6,577.

Nikkei is up 33 points, or 0.16%, at 20,653.

Shanghai Composite is down 1.5 points at 2,922, a fall of 0.05%.

Hang Seng is down 24.85 points, or 0.1%, at 25,601.

Kospi is down 1 point, or 0.04%, at 1,968.

Brent crude is up 5c to $58.70 a barrel.

Spot gold was down 0.5% at $1,523.26 per ounce.


Evan Lucas at InvestSmart has done a great job in annotating the governor’s statement so you can see the bits that have changed since last month.

He sees the Australian economy growing “from here” so maybe hinting at a more upbeat forecast at some point. He appears more bullish about house prices.

And he also sees inflation coming in below 2% target next year, but sees it above 2% in 2021.

Here are the Change from August to September #RBA #ausbiz pic.twitter.com/xgSTPlBApy

— Evan Lucas (@EvanLucas_INV) September 3, 2019


Aussie dollar goes back above US67c

The Aussie has spiked back up to US67.04c.


Expect low rates and possibly more monetary easing, says Lowe

Lowe repeats his view that loose monetary policy will stay for some time.

This is becoming a familar line so we can expect low interest rates to support growth. Lowe says:

It is reasonable to expect that an extended period of low interest rates will be required in Australia to make progress in reducing unemployment and achieve more assured progress towards the inflation target.

Key Headlines






— Kyle Rodda (@KyleR_IG) September 3, 2019


— Eleanor Creagh (@Eleanor_Creagh) September 3, 2019


RBA governor says housing market will support spending

Governor Philip Lowe’s statement picks its way carefully through the economic outlook but he notes that the improving housing market could start to help currently very weak consumer spending, along with tax cuts helping disposable income.

The main domestic uncertainty continues to be the outlook for consumption, although a pick-up in growth in household disposable income and a stabilisation of the housing market are expected to support spending.

It is reasonable to expect that an extended period of low interest rates will be required in Australia to make progress in reducing unemployment and achieve more assured progress towards the inflation target. The Board will continue to monitor developments, including in the labour market, and ease monetary policy further if needed to support sustainable growth in the economy and the achievement of the inflation target over time.

Here’s the statement in full.


RBA keeps the cash rate at 1%.


It’s coming soon. The chances of a cut in rates at 2.30 is around 15%, according to CommSec analysts. That won’t please the Kouk.

Evan Lucas of InvestSmart is looking at what the RBA might say in its statement after the meeting. He notes that the familiar message of recent months might no longer contain the line about struggling house prices.

We’ll have all the reaction to the decision and statement from 2.30pm.

"Economic growth in Australia over the first half of this year has been lower than earlier expected, with household consumption weighed down by a protracted period of low income growth and declining housing prices" dont expect that last comment to remain at 14:30 #ausbiz #RBA

— Evan Lucas (@EvanLucas_INV) September 3, 2019

There has been a lot of debate – as ever – about what the RBA should do today although the consensus is it won’t cut the rate.

The outspoken economist Stephen Koukoulas has left no doubt that he is in favour of a rate cut – preferably a whopping big one to reduce the cash rate to 0.25% and boost growth. But he doesn’t think the RBA will and he’s not afraid to let people know.

Writing for Yahoo Finance he says:

To boost growth, Dr Lowe could (should) cut interest rates to near zero but he has a preference to have higher unemployment and lower living standards than needed as he maintains his crusade against house prices and household debt.

Without policy action by the government and the RBA, the economy is likely to remain a chronic under-performer.

Having said that he has GDP to hit 0.7% for Q2 tomorrow meaning an annual growth of 1.6%. That’s quite a lot more optimistic than some forecasters.

Sticking with GDP of 0.7% for tomorrow - about 1.6% annual

— Stephen Koukoulas (@TheKouk) September 3, 2019


A bit more than an hour before the RBA decision, which we’ll bring to you as soon as it happens.

Economists at JP Morgan have been crunching through the July retail sales data and conclude that any consumer-led recovery in the economy in the third quarter still seems a bit of a stretch. They note that shoppers cut back despite two successive rate cuts so they are unlikely to suddenly start spending now.

The RBA cut in early June and July, and July was the first month where it was technically possible for households to have received the 2018/19 low and middle income tax offset. It is still very early days in tracking the disposable income transmission, but the July data represent an unimpressive start.

Most categories were soft in July, with food sales (+0.3%m/m) boosting the headline measure, while clothing/footwear (-1.0%m/m), “other” retailing (-0.4%m/m), cafes/restaurants (-0.6%m/m) and department store sales (-0.2%m/m) were broadly soft. Household goods retailing managed to tread water (-0.1%m/m) but has still had a lackluster run of late.


Aussie dollar drops below US67c

It’s happened. The Aussie is being crushed by the economic gloom and the strong greenback.

Some think it’s only going lower ...

$AUD 0.6699... Not far to go to see USD/AUD hit $1.50

— Lindsay David (@linzcom) September 3, 2019

The move towards 65 range for completion of A continues apace...mindful of possible slips toward 60 in extensions, though Alternate presently. pic.twitter.com/TfbliJH4Yr

— Steve Henderson (@TTCSteve) September 3, 2019

I was just thinking there should really be an “I love charts” hashtag. And of course there is but it doesn’t get much love on Twitter.

But while I’m at it, I also like this chart from Martin North at Digital Finance Analytics @DFA_Analyst with its implication that there may be trouble ahead for the aforementioned balance of payments ...

Australia records first current account surplus in 44 years https://t.co/rHtjPFbtJP pic.twitter.com/w314El4mRa

— Martin North (@DFA_Analyst) September 3, 2019

I love this chart. Thanks to @JFosterFM

Australia's current account balance over time. Quite an extraordinary chart. #ausbiz pic.twitter.com/l86CdL3Wtv

— James Foster (@JFosterFM) September 3, 2019

The Chinese markets have opened but they are flat like the others this lunchtime.

Shanghai Composite is down 2 points at 2,922, a fall of 0.07%.

The Hang Seng is up 63 points, or 0.25%, at 25,689.

The ASX200 is up 5 points, or 0.1%, at 6,586.

Nikkei is up 14 points, or 0.07%, at 20,637.

Kospi is up 6 points, or 0.3%, at 1,975.


Government spending might save the day, says Westpac

Westpac economists have put out an excellent summing-up of the Australian data.

Andrew Hanlan writes that the boost in government spending and exports means he is sticking to his forecast of a rise of 0.5% in Q2 GDP tomorrow. Government is the key growth driver, he says. But he warns that falling iron ore prices will reduce the contribution of exports in the third quarter and put the spotlight on weak consumer demand.

Government spending (largely centred on health and investment – albeit with quarterly volatility) is the key growth driver. Another positive is the resumption of the export uptrend in the first half of 2019, supported by expanding capacity in the LNG sector and with the lower AUD a boost for services and manufacturing.

By contrast, private demand is contracting – with home building in a downtrend and business investment patchy. Consumer spending is likely soft, constrained by weak wages growth. Import weakness is symptomatic of weak demand, as well as the impact of the lower AUD.


Fund managers failing, says research

My colleague Ben Butler brings this depressing news for investors:

More bad news for investors who trust other people to look after their money: most fund managers failed to beat the overall market last financial year, according to new research from S&P Dow Jones Indices.

And many failed to come anywhere near the returns delivered by the benchmark indexes which S&P maintains.

Funds that invested in Australian shares grew by an average of 6.3% last year, almost half of the 11.6% gain experienced by the ASX200, which tracks the market’s 200 biggest companies.

More than 90% of funds failed to hit the benchmark, S&P said.

Funds that invested in international shares did a bit better, growing by 9.2% against an index that grew at 12.1%. However, that still resulted in more than 70% failing to reach the measure.

Capital Economics revises GDP up to 0.4%

Capital Economics reckons that the boost from exports and government spending will be enough to bring GDP in at 0.4% tomorrow. They revised their number down to 0.2% last week after the shocking building approvals but they now say it will be 0.4%.

They say:

In light of the data on net exports, government finances, and business inventories we are raising our estimate for Q2 GDP from 0.2% q/q to 0.4% q/q (actual data due on Wednesday). That would be consistent with annual GDP growth slowing to 1.3% y/y, the weakest pace of growth in nearly 20 years.


Government consumption rises 2.7%

Federal spending might be another factor to save the GDP number from going negative tomorrow.

The ABS said this morning that general government final consumption expenditure increased by $2,365m or 2.7%, and “is expected to positively contribute 0.5 percentage points to growth in the June quarter 2019 volume measure of GDP”.

With the balance of payments surplus contributing 0.6 percentage points to GDP, it might not be as bad as some economists have predicted.


Cafes and restaurants performed especially badly to drag down retail sales, the ABS says.

Australia’s cafes performed poorly in July, the ABS says.
Australia’s cafes performed poorly in July, the ABS says. Photograph: Rui Vieira/REX/Shutterstock

“There were falls in four of the six industries and six of the eight states and territories in July,” said Ben James, director of quarterly economy wide surveys. “Cafes, restaurants and takeaway services (-0.6%) led the falls. There were also falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-1.0%), other retailing (-0.4%), and department stores (-0.2%). Food retailing (0.3 %), and household goods retailing (0.1%) rose this month.”

The only states and territories that saw a rise were Western Australia (0.6%) and the Northern Territory (0.3%).


Aussie dollar down again

The poor retail sales sent the dollar down again. It fell from US67.10c to US67.00c immediately after the release of the data, before climbing back to US67.04c a few minutes ago.


First current account surplus since 1975

On the up side, Australia has recorded its first current account surplus for 44 years.

ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said: “Six consecutive quarters of goods and services surpluses, broadly commodity driven, have laid the foundation for our first current account surplus in 44 years.”

Current Account Balance (June quarter): +A$5.9bn (forecast: +A$1.5bn). First current account surplus in 44 years.
Net exports to add 0.6pp to Q2 GDP. #ausbiz #ausecon

— CommSec (@CommSec) September 3, 2019

AU retail sales fall 0.1%mom, weaker than 0.2%mom expectation, coming after 0.4%mom outcome in June. Consumer continues to be cautious...#ausbiz pic.twitter.com/3L79N3Ryvc

— Alex Joiner (@IFM_Economist) September 3, 2019

Retail sales slump 0.1%,

Retail sales fell 0.1% in July, according to figures from the Australia Bureau of Statistics.

The number implies weaker than expected GDP figures tomorrow.

Oil price falls

The gloomy prospects for the global economy have pushed the price of a barrel down this morning.

Benchmark Brent crude was was US7 cents lower at $58.59 a barrel. US crude was down 32 cents, or 0.6%, at $54.78.

Port workers watch Kenya’s first shipment of crude oil dispatched from Mombasa last week
Port workers watch Kenya’s first shipment of crude oil dispatched from Mombasa last week. Photograph: AP


The Chinese yuan has been set weaker once again by the People’s Bank.

The currency is now notionally fixed at 7.0884 to the US dollar, as opposed to 7.0884 yesterday. But it’s likely to drift lower still because it finished the trading day at 7.1717 on Monday (the higher the number the weaker the yuan).

#PBOC cut #yuan's fixing to 7.0884 per USD, vs 7.0883 one day earlier.

— YUAN TALKS (@YuanTalks) September 3, 2019

Is the global economy at risk of Japanisation'?

Bond yields are heading ever downwards and bringing the prospect of very low interest rates for years to come. That much we know. (Here’s Greg Jericho’s very useful primer on the subject.)

Japan has been living with ultra low growth and rates for more than 20 years since the bursting of its property bubble in the 90s andpersistent low population growth. This has given rise to speculation about how other developed nations will cope in this changed environment.

Discounts at a store in Japan.
Discounts at a store in Japan. Photograph: Yuya Shino/Reuters

The economics team at JP Morgan have been looking at the issues and whether economies such as Australia’s might succumb to this deflationary trap.

Their conclusion is that population growth (which Japan famously doesn’t have) might save Australia and the US, but there is a risk of “Japanisation” in Europe (low growth, low population growth) and China (high growth for now but a demographic timebomb is ticking there too).

Here’s what they say:

Europe looks like Japan on a few measures, the US doesn’t look like Japan on many measures at all, and China lies somewhere in between. China appears to offer the broadest set of potential Japanization trades relative to the US or Europe.

Australia is at risk because the bond market is already “Japanised” – ie yields are very low – and household is very high at the second highest in the world.

But they say:

Strong population growth in Australia (1.5%oya at present) makes economic stagnation (and hence deflation) improbable, but doesn’t rule out a protracted period of sub-trend growth and sub-target inflation.


Stock markets have stabilised a bit and overall are flat across the region. The ASX200 is off four points at 6,575, while the Nikkei and the Kospi are up a smidgen. Korean investors might be encouraged by the prospect of another cut in rates after that zero inflation reading.

Let's take a moment to talk about South Korea lack of inflation - 0% & LOWEST EVER! Core rose 0.9%YoY. Let's not forget that PPI deflated at -0.3%YoY.

Exports are FALLING in double digits (>20% contraction from China demand). Korea needs all the help it can get👇🏻

Look at that😬 pic.twitter.com/xxRcQl61ku

— Trinh Nguyen (@Trinhnomics) September 3, 2019

Otherwise, the markets calm is partly because of the lack of the usual lead from the US, where markets were closed yesterday. And Reuters reports that investors will also be awaiting a manufacturing survey from the US later today for signs of how the world’s biggest economy is going.

“Although US manufacturing activity has been slowing in recent months, the Institute of Supply management index has so far stayed above 50, which separates contraction and growth,” Reuters says.

The significance is summed up by Hiroyuki Ueno, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management in Tokyo:

We have so many problems around the world, starting from the US-China trade war and Brexit. But investors appear to be getting used to be exposed to them. No one really thinks Washington and Beijing will solve the issues. But as long as the US economy keeps going, stock prices will have limited downside.


Aussie dollar slips lower

The Australian dollar has edged lower this morning to US67.11c.

The $AUDUSD remains on a tight range in the 0.6750 -0.6715 level the past few days. Can the battler get any direction from the #RBA interest rate decision today or the #GDP & retail sales numbers out this week?#FX #trading #forex #ausbiz
Losses may exceed deposits pic.twitter.com/Ae5stSHBRl

— AxiTrader (@AxiTrader) September 2, 2019

It started the day at US67.18 and is now close to its lowest point for 10 years thanks to weakening commodity prices and a strong US dollar. The greenback dollar index is at 99.12, by the way, its strongest for two years.

With this in mind, Michael McCarthy at CMC Markets in Sydney reckons the chances of an RBA cut later are pretty slim:

Expectations for an interest rate cut in Australia today are muted after the back-to-back cuts in June and July. However the inventory component of the national accounts shocked with a 0.9% drop in the second quarter. This has some analysts predicting a negative number when GDP data is released tomorrow, a development that could shift the RBA’s thinking. However the stimulatory impact of the lower Aussie should be enough to stay the board’s hand today.


Inflation hits zero in South Korea

The negative start on the market in South Korea comes after annual inflation hit an all-time low in August of ZERO, figures showed this morning.

That means the Bank of Korea has revised down the economic growth for the April-June period to 1.0% on-quarter from a 1.1% gain reported earlier, citing weaker exports than estimated earlier. Consumer demand is also a worry in Korea.

South Korea inflation falls to ZERO, lowest on record.

Good morning from the Asia Pacific. pic.twitter.com/xX55F2lsuv

— David Ingles (@DavidInglesTV) September 2, 2019


Markets are open

Stock markets across Asia Pacific are open. The ASX200 in Sydney has started the day flat while the Nikkei in Tokyo is down 0.27% and the Kospi in Seoul is off 0.15%.


As I’ve just mentioned, the Coalition is in full damage-limitation mode before the possibly terrible GDP figures tomorrow.

My esteemed colleague Greg Jericho has taken his usual forensic look at the state of play and asks why we should be expected to believe the government’s claims that a better economy is just around the corner when it’s been in charge for six years ...

Here’s the full piece:


Good morning and welcome to our business live blog. It looks set to be a busy day in economics and finance in Australia and around the world, beginning with another slew of data on the Australian economy at 11.30 this morning, followed by the Reserve Bank’s latest monthly verdict on the cash rate at 2.30 this afternoon.

  • The key background in Australia is that there is increasing pessimism around tomorrow’s GDP number. A lot of data has pointed to a very low print tomorrow, with the latest coming yesterday. In case you missed it, a mixed business indicator survey showed profits and wages were solid, up 4% on the back of strong earnings in the mining sector in the June quarter, but inventories were down a surprising 0.9%.
  • Economists at JP Morgan and UBS see the GDP quarterly number coming in 0.4% tomorrow but some have begun to revise that downwards. One analyst at Credit Suisse reckons the inventories were so bad yesterday that the GDP figure will be -0.6%.
  • On interest rates nearly everyone expects the RBA to hold rates at 1% today – but the expectation is already there for cuts in October and maybe February next year. We might learn more from the wording of the governor Philip Lowe’s statement later on.
  • On the market, the ASX200 is expected to open down about 15 points or 0.23% this morning, when trading gets under way in about 30 minutes. The US market was closed yesterday for Labor day but the FTSE100 was up 1% helped by the weak pound.
  • The Aussie dollar is close to a 10-year low at $67.18c.
  • On the politics side, the Coalition will be hoping that the GDP number is not too ugly or it is in for a tough few weeks explaining what happened to the economy under its watch. Scott Morrison has said he expects tomorrow’s number to be “soft”. It might blame uncertainty surrounding the election, and talk up a recovery in the third quarter.
  • The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has already been out there, telling a doorstop in Sydney that the government only has a political strategy and doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy.

Anyway, on with the program.



Martin Farrer

The GuardianTramp

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