Once a month, the RBA board meets to decide whether to raise the cash rate, lower it or keep it the same. Their decision will be influenced by a wide range of factors including inflation, the performance of the Aussie dollar, the housing market, Australia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and levels of consumer confidence. The board will assess all of these factors in relation to the RBA's goals and objectives before reaching a consensus on what to do with the official cash rate.
The RBA's monetary policy aims to achieve three key objectives which are set out in the Reserve Bank Act 1959:
- The stability of the currency of Australia;
- The maintenance of full employment in Australia; and
- The economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
In order to reach those objectives, the RBA sets an inflation target of 2-3% over the medium term. In other words, the RBA wants the Consumer Price Index (CPI, based on the average prices for a range of common goods and services) to increase by between 2 and 3 per cent each year.
The bank can control inflation by making adjustments to the official cash rate. For example, if inflation rises above the target rate it means that Australians are spending their money too freely and prices are increasing too rapidly. But if the RBA raises interest rates to make it more expensive to borrow money, the economy will settle and price increases will slow down. Conversely, the RBA will drop interest rates if inflation is too low and the economy is stagnating, encouraging more Australians to spend more money and stimulate economic growth.
How the cash rate can impact your finances
See how the cash rate changes can affect your savings, term deposits, home loans and what you can do about it.
If the rate holds
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Banks and other lenders all over the country use the RBA's official cash rate as the benchmark for the rates they offer on their variable rate home loans and other financial products. You may have seen or heard news stories following a rate change announcement by the RBA as economists predict when the banks will pass the RBA's change on to their customers.