23 February, 2024
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Battling borrowers bank on pre-Christmas rates relief

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Borrowers are likely to be spared another interest rate hike in the lead up to Christmas.

A month of mortgage reprieve will be welcomed by the “middle-age, middle wage” workers who have recorded a sharp rise in financial distress based on research by Suicide Prevention Australia.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to stay on hold when it meets on Tuesday after a surprisingly weak monthly inflation read.

Headline inflation grew 4.9 per cent in October, down from 5.6 per cent in September.

A poll taken by Reuters last week found 28 of 30 economists expect the central bank to keep the cash rate steady at 4.35 per cent.

Australia’s big four banks were among those tipping no change. 

 Economists from the big four banks are tipping no change to the cash rate by the RBA. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

The economists on the RBA shadow board were more uncertain about the December call, attaching a 50 per cent probability to a steady result and a 49 per cent probability to a further increase. 

The board highlighted slow progress on underlying inflation in a statement ahead of the rates call.  

“The RBA’s trimmed mean consumer price index, which excludes the most volatile items, was 5.3 per cent year-on-year, one tick lower than in the previous month, and still well above the RBA’s target band of two and three per cent,” the statement read. 

The 13 interest rate hikes in the cycle have been pushing up monthly repayments for mortgage holders, stretching many household budgets thin.

Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive officer Nieves Murray said all Australians were doing it tough but those in the 35-49 age bracket and earning between $50,000 and $150,000 as a household were under the most pressure. 

“‘Middle-age, middle- wage’ workers are carrying a greater share of the economic burden at a time in their lives when they’re at peak productivity and heightened risk of suicide,” Ms Murray said.

Research by the organisation found the cohort was six times more likely to be exhibiting suicidal behaviours than middle-income retiree counterparts.

More than half of this high-risk group were reporting higher levels of distress because of financial pressure and personal debt in the December quarter, up from 42 per cent this time last year. 

The RBA has been lifting interest rates to bring inflation back to its two to three per cent target range.

Signs of persistent inflation triggered a 25 basis point hike in November, breaking a four-month streak on hold.

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