Why Raising Fares Now and Quickly Isn’t the Solution

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Lowe’s apparent lack of urgency characterizes him as a lone dove in a world of hawks. This description is incomplete and does not take into account the evolution of the RBA’s rhetoric over the past few months. The bank admits that rates could rise this year and is expected to make the final bond purchases of its quantitative easing program on Thursday. Just a few months ago, officials were guiding investors to take off in 2024. That’s quite a change in quite a short time. If rates rise in the second half of the year, the RBA won’t be too far behind the US Federal Reserve, which is almost certain to raise the benchmark federal funds rate in March. It would be the Fed’s first push since 2018. Such a timeline would put the RBA ahead of the European Central Bank, which itself recently executed a “hawkish pivot.” If ECB President Christine Lagarde, who last week refused to rule out a hike this year, is seen as a hawk, why not Lowe? (The Eurozone and Japan were supposed to be the places that would never give up the easy money habit.) Depictions of Lowe as a dove also downplay his awareness of what’s at stake.” Australia is in sight of a historic milestone – to have a national unemployment rate below 4%,” he told the National Press Club last week. “This matters because low unemployment brings very real economic and social benefits to many Australians and their communities.” A misstep would be potentially perilous. Hidden in the background, Australia’s two main political parties want an overhaul of the RBA after national elections, likely to be held in May. Change is looming for the bank, whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s centre-right coalition stays in power or the Labor opposition wins. The bank’s board structure, the Treasury’s tradition of selecting RBA leaders from within the institution, and the level of transparency in the bank’s deliberations are potentially up for grabs. A sharp rise in rates and possibly a recession would be an unfortunate time.

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