“Rally to me,” said Glenn Stevens. And investors did.
The RBA rate cut WAS a full percentage point as we speculated yesterday. And it certainly did make a splash. Economists loved it. The critics praised it. And investors “huzzahed” the ASX 200 up nearly two percent on a day when the rest of the globe quaked in fear.
What has changed? The bank has shifted from being worried about inflation to being worried about recession. A credit crunch? Slowing global demand? Falling commodity prices? All those DO seem to add up to much slower growth.
“The recent deterioration in prospects for global growth,” the RBA released in a statement, “together with much more difficult market conditions even for creditworthy borrowers, now present the risk that demand and output could be significantly weaker than earlier expected. Should that occur, inflation would most likely fall faster than earlier forecast.”
But is the biggest RBA rate cut in 16 years more symbolic than anything? What will change in the real economy and the credit markets because of what the RBA has done? The big four banks did pass on a rate cut of 80 basis points to consumers. That’s a win for the battlers.
Will the RBA rate cut unlock the interbank lending market, though? The RBA board said it took careful note of movements in funding costs in wholesale markets,” and that, “an unusually large movement in the cash rate was appropriate in order to bring about a significant reduction in costs to borrowers.” So credit is now cheaper. But is anyone selling? Banks might begin lending if they were sure it was safe to lend. But is it?
To the extent that Aussie banks fund domestic lending by borrowing from foreign banks, the lower rates don’t help either. The cut DOES help reduce the cost of all that debt Aussie consumer are carrying (160% of disposable income according to Dr. Steve Keen). But it doesn’t make the debt go away.
We made an error earlier this week when we said Australia had moved to guarantee bank deposits. That move has been made in the U.S. and Europe, but not yet in Australia. And according to Wayne Swan on Lateline last night, there’s probably no need to do so, since Australian banks are well regulated and well capitalised. Hmmmm.
Markets and Money