Australia’s central bank leaves cash rate at 4.1% for 2nd month but says inflation remains too high

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s central bank on Tuesday left its benchmark interest rate on hold at 4.1% for a second consecutive month raising expectations that rates might have reached their peak or are close to plateauing in the current cycle.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has hiked the cash rate 12 times from a record-low of 0.1% in May last year — as the board has attempted to rein in inflation — to a target range between 2% and 3%.

Inflation fell from 7% in the first quarter of the year to 6% in the June quarter.

The bank’s governor Philip Lowe said inflation was “still too high at 6%” and interest rates could be lifted further.

“Some further tightening of monetary policy may be required to ensure that inflation returns to target in a reasonable timeframe, but that will depend upon the data and the evolving assessment of risks,” Lowe said in a statement.

The bank’s decision not to lift rates was based on previous hikes continuing to rebalance supply and demand forces in the economy and an uncertain outlook, he said.

Economists are divided on whether taming inflation will tip Australia’s sluggish economy into recession.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed the bank’s decision to wait.

“This will be a big relief for Australians with a mortgage,” Chalmers told Parliament. “This is a welcome reprieve for Australians who already doing it tough enough.”

“We are making progress in this fight against inflation,” he added.

Brendan Rynne, chief economist at the financial firm KPMG, expected one more quarter percentage point rise to the cash rate at the board’s next monthly meeting on Sept. 4.

That will be Lowe’s final meeting as governor before his five-year contract expires on Sept. 17.

Rynne said the bank’s decision on Tuesday on whether to lift the cash rate by 0.25% or wait had been “pretty much a coin toss.”

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