ANZ: Neutral cash rate now lower than pre-GFC era

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Those expecting the interest rates to shoot higher in the years ahead should prepare to be disappointed, as new research from ANZ shows that the Reserve Bank of Australia's neutral cash rate is now significantly below the five to six per cent level seen before the global financial crisis.

The neutral cash rate is the level which would allow the Australian economy to grow at trend without stoking inflationary pressures. Hence, this low neutral cash rate reflects wider bank spreads, a lower world neutral rate, and a lower potential growth rate, according to ANZ economist Kieran Davis.

"The spread between the mortgage rate and the cash rate is expected to stay high and may widen further given sustained pressure on bank funding costs," he said. "The ongoing evaluation of regulatory changes may raise the cost of funding to banks, and thus lending, over time."

Davis also suggests that the official cash rate, despite being at a record low of 1.75 per cent, is delivering less stimulus to the Australian economy than what would have been the case in the past.

"This makes us more comfortable with our forecast that the Reserve Bank will cut rates again to 1.5 per cent given weak underlying inflation, keeping the cash rate low over our two-year forecast horizon," he said.

Should lower interest rates arrive in the future, it is highly likely that greater macroprudential measures are also on the way, starting off with the recent restrictions imposed by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority to cool lending to housing investors.

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