RBA gives no hints of 2013 rate cuts

The Reserve Bank of Australia is keeping its plans for 2013 close to its chest, but economists say further rate cuts are on the cards.

The minutes of the RBA's December 4 board meeting, released on Tuesday, show the central bank cut the cash rate to support underperforming sectors of the economy, ahead of the expected peak in the mining investment boom.

The RBA cut the cash rate to three per cent at the meeting, from 3.25 per cent previously.

But the minutes give no indication the RBA expects to cut again in 2013.

"In terms of forward-looking guidance there is nothing in there," JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said.

Still, Mr Kennedy thinks the RBA will need to cut at least once more next year, with further cuts possible if sectors like housing construction, manufacturing and retail do not pick up enough to offset the slide in mining investment once the current boom peaks.

Commonwealth Bank economist John Peters said the RBA's minutes indicated growth in the non-mining sectors of the economy remained subdued.

"This implies that the non-mining economy will need to gain momentum sooner to offset moderating growth from mining investment in the period ahead," he said.

"A failure by the non-mining economy to pick up speed would point to further policy assistance by the RBA if required down the line."

The futures market is currently predicting up to two 0.25 percentage point cuts in 2013, while one of Australia's largest banks, ANZ, said on Monday that it expected the RBA to cut the cash rate to two per cent in 2013.

According to the minutes, the RBA board also believed the soft jobs market and slower wage growth meant a rate cut was unlikely to cause a blowout in inflation.

"At the meeting, the information on labour costs and softening labour market conditions suggested the inflation outlook still afforded the board some scope to provide additional support to demand," the RBA minutes said.

"Further confirmation that the peak in resource sector investment was near, and that the short-term outlook for non-resources investment remained subdued, indicating there was a case for the board to provide that support."

The RBA has a target range for annual inflation growth of between two and three per cent, which informs its interest rate settings.

In the minutes, the RBA, which has cut the cash rate 1.75 percentage points since November 2011, said lending rates were now below their medium term average, which was beginning to have a positive effect on the economy.

"Some of the expected effects were starting to be observed and further effects could be anticipated over time," the RBA said.

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