Home-owners will have breathed a sigh of relief at the RBA’s decision this week not to raise interest rates. But have we really dodged the higher-repayments bullet for another month? Or are the big banks preparing to open fire — and raise their rates regardless of the Reserve Bank?
Despite reports from ANZ, Westpac and NAB that they’d follow the RBA in maintaining current rates, each bank has left a back door open on an out-of-cycle rate rise. Take ANZ’s carefully worded commitment: “Interest rates are always under review, but there is no immediate trigger at the moment for any change.” Could an immediate trigger at another moment change that tune — for example, a CBA rise next week?
ANZ chief executive Mike Smith has already hinted at his interest rate intentions, saying that with the increased cost of foreign funding, “something has to give”. CBA’s Ralph Norris put his additional funding costs at $1.2bn a year. And while the RBA has declared that bank profits are more than healthy enough to cover these costs – earnings are up and the banks are more profitable than they were pre-crisis – the Big Four aren’t known for absorbing increased costs for the benefit of the Australian home owner.
So the general feeling is that the big banks were less than impressed when the RBA defied market expectations and sat tight on a base rate of 4.5%. It’s one thing for them to slip a few extra points onto an RBA raise. It’s another for them to slap on an out-of-cycle rise.
Back to those bullets, however — and you can probably expect a Big Four rate rise in November, regardless of the RBA’s decision. Prior to that, any enemy fire is expected to come from the Commonwealth corner, as they have the largest mortgage book and the greatest exposure to increased cost of foreign funding. Also, because they’re yet to declare their immediate position.
And any rise from CBA will likely be met with moves from the other big banks. Don’t you just love an oligopoly?
To escape the firing squad — why not check out the home loan competition? Our rate chasers will be keeping track of any rate moves throughout the month so visit our Reserve Bank Interest Rate page for all the latest info.
And stay tuned for our Rate rise punt: the real Melbourne Cup Day odds.