5 Dec 2012

Australian cash rate cut to 3%

7:49 am on 5 December 2012

Australia's central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate to 3%, its lowest level since the global financial crisis in 2009.

The 25-basis-point rate cut means the Official Cash Rate target is at its equal lowest level since the Reserve Bank of Australia started publishing its cash rate target in 1990, the ABC reports.

Governor Glenn Stevens again chose to highlight the strength of the local currency as a factor in the bank's thinking.

"There are signs of easier [interest rate] conditions starting to have some of the expected effects, though the exchange rate remains higher than might have been expected, given the observed decline in export prices and the weaker global outlook," he noted in his post-meeting statement.

"While the full effects of earlier measures are yet to be observed, the board judged at today's meeting that a further easing in the stance of monetary policy was appropriate now."

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan welcomed the cut, reports the ABC, saying the equivalent of seven rate cuts over the past year had been made possible by the Government's "economic management, strong budget management and of course contained inflation".

Opposition treasury spokesperson Joe Hockey says the Reserve Bank is acting to counter poor economic management by the Federal Government.

"The challenge is that the interest rates cuts are not coming because the Australian economy is doing well, it's because the Australian economy is facing tougher times," he said.

Shares on the Australian stock market slipped 0.6% after the RBA's decision. The ASX 200 lost 28 points to close at 4503.

New Zealand's Reserve Bank is widely expected to keep the Official Cash Rate on hold when it makes its next decision on Thursday.

The interest rate has stood at 2.5% since March last year and economists are not expecting that to change.