Australia central bank governor opens door for further easing, QE

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s top central banker said on Thursday monetary easing would become more effective as the economy loosens its coronavirus restrictions, an indication another cut to the official cash rate was likely.

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Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe also said the board was studying the benefits that might come from buying longer-dated government bonds as part of its monetary stimulus package to boost jobs and growth.

The remarks come ahead of the RBA’s Nov. 3 board meeting where economists increasingly expect a 15 basis points cut to the cash rate to a record low 0.1% and an expansion of an existing bond-buying programme to include longer maturities. [AU/INT]

Those expectations sent the Australian dollar AUD=D3 to a one-week low of $0.7129 on Thursday. Long-dated bond futures rallied, with the 10-year contract YTCc1 jumping 6.5 ticks to the highest since April.

“When the pandemic was at its worst and there were severe restrictions on activity we judged that there was little to be gained from further monetary easing,” Lowe said in a speech in Sydney.

“The solutions to the problems the country faced lay elsewhere,” Lowe added referring to fiscal policy, which he said, has provided “welcome support” to the economy.

“As the economy opens up, though, it is reasonable to expect that further monetary easing would get more traction than was the case earlier.”

Lowe emphasised that creating jobs was the RBA’s “main focus”, with data on Thursday showing the unemployment rate had ticked up to 6.9% in September.

Apart from considering the benefits of further easing when the cash rates is already at record lows, the RBA board was also looking at the possible effect on financial stability and long-term macroeconomic stability.

The implications of larger balance-sheet expansion by other central banks were another consideration as the RBA works at potential policy options, Lowe added.

“These are three of the complex issues we have been considering at our recent Board meetings,” Lowe said. “The Board will continue to review these and other issues at our upcoming meetings.”

Lowe hinted at the possibility of an expansion of the RBA’s bond buying programme further along the yield curve.

He did not provide details but noted that 10-year Australian government bond yields AU10YT=RR were higher than most other advanced countries and that policymakers were looking at whether lowering them could aid job creation.

Lowe’s speech prompted economists at Commonwealth Bank of Australia to revise their call to now predict a cut to the cash rate next month and additional bond purchases to lower yields on 5-10 year government bonds. They previously saw 0.25% as the lower bound of the current easing cycle.

“The Governor has made it very clear that we can expect to see more monetary policy easing from the RBA,” CBA senior economist Kristina Clifton said. “The speech showed a sense of urgency around reducing slack in the labour market.”

Reporting by Swati Pandey and Wayne Cole; Editing by Chris Reese and Sam Holmes