RBA keeps cash rate untouched for 19th consecutive month

By Gerv Tacadena

Interest rates are maintained at their lowest levels

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decided to continue with the historically-low interest rate of 1.5% for the 19th consecutive month.

The move was widely expected by industry watchers and experts, as Australian households suffer from high levels of debt.

Interest rates were last moved in August 2016, commencing the low-interest rate environment in Australia. In a statement, RBA governor Philip Lowe said the low rates continue to support the Australian economy.

"Further progress in reducing unemployment and having inflation return to target is expected, although this progress is likely to be gradual," Lowe said.

Over the past year, the central bank governor noted the strong growth in employment levels, which was accompanied by a significant increase in the labour force participation.

Despite the improving employment numbers, wages remained low. Lowe believes this will likely last for a while, as a stronger economy requires momentum.

"Consistent with this, the rate of wages growth appears to have troughed and there are reports that some employers are finding it more difficult to hire workers with the necessary skills," Lowe said.

The RBA governor also noted slowing housing markets, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. Nationwide measures of housing prices have changed little over the past six months, though some areas still recorded declines.

While the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)'s tighter credit regulations have helped contain the build-up of risk in household balance sheets, the level of household debt remains high.

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