File photoThe Reserve Bank has kept its cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent asretail banks push up rates on investor and interest-only loansand push down rates charged to owner-occupiers.
The Bank’s decision,announced at 2.30 pm eastern time, means the cash rate will stay steady at the record low of 1.5 per cent for the twelfth consecutive month.
On balance, the forecasters taking part in the mid-yearScopeBusinessDaysurvey released on the weekendexpect another full year of steady rates, with the number expecting an increase roughly balancing the number expecting a cut.
Governor Philip Lowe’s statement says while the bank expects the economy to gradually strengthen, growth in consumer spending remains subdued, “reflecting slow growth in real wages and high levels of household debt”.
In an apparent reference to risk of pushing up the dollar should the bank lift interest rates, Dr Lowe said the fall in the dollar since 2013 had helped the economy transition out of the mining investment boom.
“An appreciating exchange rate would complicate this adjustment,” his statement says.
Interest rates were firming worldwide, with further increases in US interest rates expected along with no additional monetary easing in other major economies.
Conditions in the housing market varied considerably around the country.
Housing prices had been “rising briskly in some markets, although there are some signs that these conditions are starting to ease; in some other markets, prices are declining.
“In the eastern capital cities, a considerable additional supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years,” Dr Lowe said. “Rent increases are the slowest for two decades.”
Tighter rules imposed by the Prudential Regulation Authority should help address the risks associated with high and rising levels of household debt.
Mortgage rates for investors have been edging higher since September.
On Monday Westpac launched an aggressive push into the residential investment property market by offering a fixed rate below 4 per cent.