REIA calls for rate cut

The industry’s peak body has called for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates following the release of soft inflation data.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose by 0.2 per cent during the December 2014 quarter and 1.7 per cent during the 2014 calendar year.

Real Estate Institute of Australia president Neville Saunders said this reinforced the case for a rate cut.

“These figures are below the Reserve Bank’s target zone of 2-3 per cent and should not put pressure on the inflation outlook,” Mr Saunders said.

“With inflation under control, combined with a slowdown in housing finance, it’s appropriate that the RBA board seriously considers a cut in interest rates at their meeting next week.”

Mr Saunders made a similar call earlier in the month in response to a dramatic slowdown in the growth in housing finance commitments.

Speculation is growing ahead of the Reserve Bank’s monthly board meeting on February 3, with Westpac, NAB and ANZ all forecasting that rates will be cut in the first half of the year.

The official cash rate has remained at a record-low 2.5 per cent since August 2013.

Meanwhile, Housing Industry Association senior economist Shane Garrett said the big drop in oil prices over recent months had helped to restrain inflation.

“Fewer price pressures in the economy mean that a policy of very low interest rates is both justified and necessary,” Mr Garrett said.

“This is against the backdrop of below-trend economic growth and unemployment persistently above six per cent.”

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