03/02/15: RBA cuts rates by 25bps, shares rally

An 'insurance policy' for growth...

The official cash rate has been reduced to a new record-low of 2.25 per cent after being left on hold at 2.5 per cent since August 2013.

The Reserve Bank’s decision has come as a surprise: a survey of 30 economists and commentators found that 28 expected the cash rate to remain unchanged.

Westpac, NAB and ANZ all subsequently forecast that rates would fall some time in the first half of 2015.

The two survey respondents who predicted today’s cut were Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac, and Nathan McMullen, head of product and digital at RAMS.

Mr McMullen said that with consumer confidence and inflation low, the Reserve Bank would cut rates to help boost the economy and depreciate the Australian dollar.

Several of the other survey respondents also gave an indication of what forced the Reserve Bank to act, even though they didn’t expect it to happen as early as today.

ME Bank’s general manager of markets, John Caelli, said growth and consumer confidence have been weaker than the board would like.

“Market sentiment has fundamentally shifted over the past two months as oil prices have plummeted and concerns about deflation in Europe grow. This has led to markets expecting 0.50 per cent in rate cuts in the first half of 2015,” Mr Caelli said.

The cut is being seen by many as an 'insurance policy' on growth going forward.

Of course, while this is great news for borrowers, it adds further pressure on investors, particularly retirees, with significant exposure to cash. With that in mind, it will be important for investors in search of a decent yield to be particularly wary of new and wonderful investment products promising higher yields - so please, run it by us before taking the leap!

At the time of writing, the Australian dollar has responded to the rate cut by falling from 0.78 to 0.77, while the local share market has rallied about 1.6%.

Rick Maggi Westmount Financial