Australia hikes rates, but pause from big central banks is near

Australia hikes rates, but pause from big central banks is near
FILE PHOTO: An ibis bird perches next to the Reserve Bank of Australia headquarters in central Sydney, Australia February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/File Photo

LONDON: Australia was the latest major central bank to raise rates and on Tuesday hinted at further hikes, even as most major central banks steadily move closer to a pause in aggressive monetary tightening as inflationary pressures show signs of easing.

Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve implemented its smallest rise of its tightening cycle so far and markets suspect a peak is nearing from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England.

Overall, 10 big developed economies have raised rates by a combined 2,990 basis points in this cycle to date. Japan is the holdout dove.

Here’s a look at where policymakers stand, from hawkish to dovish.

The race to raise rates


The Fed last week raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points (bps) to a range of 4.50 per cent to 4.75 per cent, its smallest hike so far in an 11-month tightening cycle.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said it would “not be appropriate” to cut rates in 2023 and warned inflation remained too high, pushing back against an exuberant market rally on hopes for eventual rate cuts. Friday’s strong U.S. jobs data has further dampened the rate-cut speculation.

Fed keeps promise of more hikes



The Bank of Canada (BoC) on Jan. 18 lifted its key rate by 25 bps to 4.5 per cent, the highest in 15 years.

BoC Governor Tiff Macklem told Reuters he was purely focused on whether borrowing costs should be higher, quashing market bets that cuts could come as soon as October.

Canada’s central bank has raised its policy rate at a record pace of 425 bps in 10 months. Inflation, which peaked at 8.1 per cent and slowed to 6.3 per cent in December, remains more than triple the BoC’s 2 per cent target.

Bank of Canada keeps on hiking


The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) upped its pace of tightening in November, delivering a record 75-bps rate rise after five consecutive 50 bps rate increases.

Minutes from the meeting showed the RBNZ also considered a larger 100-bps hike but opted for a smaller increase. The central bank raised its forecast for its peak interest rate to 5.5 per cent, up from a previous forecast of 4.1 per cent.

New Zealand’s record rate hike


The BoE, the first major central bank to turn hawkish back in December 2021, last week lifted its Bank Rate for the tenth time running, to 4 per cent, the highest since 2008. The BoE dropped a former pledge to keep increasing rates “forcefully” and said inflation had probably peaked.

BoE’s fight against inflation-


Australia’s central bank raised its key rate by a quarter point on Tuesday to 3.35 per cent, its highest level in a decade.

It was the ninth hike of the current cycle and RBA spelled out further rate hikes would be needed in coming meetings to bring inflation down from a 33-year high.

Taming inflation-


Norway, which raised the curtain on the hawkish global trend by first raising rates in September 2021, kept its policy rate unchanged at 2.75 per cent on Jan. 19.

The Norges Bank also noted inflationary pressures were easing and previous hikes were slowing the economy.

Hikes stalled-


The ECB raised its key rate by 50 bps to 2.5 per cent last week, its fifth successive hike and the highest level since November 2008.

It said it intends to hike the rate by another 50 basis points in March to bring inflation down to its 2 per cent medium-term target.

While euro zone headline inflation eased for a third month in January, falling to 8.5 per cent from 9.2 per cent in December, core inflation held steady at 5.2 per cent.

ECB hikes again and signals more to come-


Swedish inflation hit a 30-year high of 10.2 per cent on the year in December, raising pressure on the Riksbank to keep lifting borrowing costs.

Sweden’s central bank hiked its key rate by 75 bps to 2.5 per cent in November and next meets on Feb. 8.

Further hikes expected-


The Swiss National Bank (SNB) raised its policy rate by 50 bps to 1 per cent in December, its third hike of 2022. Senior officials have signalled further increases could come this year.

SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan said last month that it was too early to sound the all-clear on inflation, although inflation eased to 2.8 per cent in December from a year earlier.

Exit from negative rates-


The Bank of Japan, the most dovish major global central bank, inched closer to ending its ultra-easy monetary policy in December with a hawkish tweak to its yield-curve control scheme that it uses to pin down borrowing rates.

The BOJ resisted further policy changes in January. But as inflation rises, the International Monetary Fund has recommended the BOJ let government bond yields move more freely and consider raising short-term interest rates. Any such move may rock markets as Japanese investors sell overseas assets to invest back home.

BOJ under fire BOJ under fire-