September 5, 2019 / 4:38 AM / a year ago

ANZ predicts Australia cash rate at 0.25% by May 2020

SYDNEY (Reuters) - ANZ Banking Group (ANZ.AX) sees Australia’s benchmark cash rate at 0.25% by May next year from a record low of 1% now, its economist said on Thursday, the most aggressive forecast among large domestic and international banks.

ANZ economists had previously predicted the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would cut rates just once more to 0.75% after easing in June and July to revive growth and inflation.

ANZ now expects cuts in October, February and May, ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plank said.

Most Australian economists expect two more rate reductions to 0.50%.

“We think the RBA will judge that it has little choice but to ease further over the coming year, as the impact of the sharp domestic slowdown feeds into the labor market and the Bank is forced to respond to global policy settings,” Plank noted.

Australia’s A$1.95 trillion ($1.32 trillion) economy grew at its slowest pace in a decade last quarter with consumer spending the biggest drag, data showed on Wednesday.

In addition, inflation has undershot the RBA’s 2-3% medium-term target while the unemployment rate has stayed above 5% for most of this year despite strong jobs growth recently.

The other three major Australian banks - Westpac (WBC.AX), National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) and Commonwealth Bank (CBA.AX) - see the cash rate at 0.5-0.75% by end-2020.

A Reuters poll of 37 economists in late August found a majority of those surveyed expect the RBA to pause at 0.5%. Financial futures <0#YIB:> are also fully pricing in two more cuts to 0.5% by early next year with a 40% chance of a third move to 0.25% later in 2020.

At its latest policy meeting on Tuesday, the RBA stood pat at 1% and said it would move again if needed.

“We cannot rule out the need for quantitative easing (QE),” ANZ’s Plank added.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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