Reserve Bank of Australia likely to ease cash rate

With continued global weakness the RBA is becoming increasingly worried about the prospects for the Australian economy. According to the National Bank of Australia there are 3 factors that the RBA are concerned with:

1. Although house prices are stabilising there are some sectors of the economy that remain in a depressed state – residential construction has a record low capacity utilisation (see graph).
2. A tightening of state and federal fiscal policy has meant that there is less aggregate demand in the economy.
3. The high value of the AUS$ affects the competitiveness of exports. However business now see the high AUS$ as permanent rather than cyclical. This is important as the RBA is not expecting lower rates to significantly lower the AUS$ but rather is trying to offset some of the economic damage to the economy.

It could be that a rate cut by the RBA is an insurance policy in an environment where inflation appears stable. The graph below looks at the RBA Cash Rate and the Taylor Rule.

The Taylor Rule

This is a specific policy rule for fixing interest rates proposed by the Stanford University economist John Taylor. Taylor argued that when:

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) = Potential Gross Domestic Product and
Inflation = its target rate of 2%,

then the Federal Funds Rate (FFR) should be 4% (that is a 2% real interest rate).

If the real GDP rises 1% above potential GDP, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.
If inflation rises 1% above its target rate of 2%, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.

This rule has been suggested as one that could be adopted by other central banks – ECB, Bank of England, etc for setting official cash rates. However, the rule does embody an arbitrary 2% inflation target rather than, say 3% or 4%, and it may need to be amended to embody alternative inflation targets at different times or by different central banks. The advantages of having such as explicit interest rate rule is that its very transparency can create better conditions for business decisions and can help shape business people’s and consumers’ expectations. Central banks prefer to maintain an air of intelligent discretion over the conduct of their policies than to follow rules, but to some extent they do unwittingly follow a Taylor rule. This makes the rule a useful benchmark against which actual policies can be judged.

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