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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has kept interest rates on hold, releasing a carefully worded statement that avoided giving struggling buyers hope of a looming cut.

Meeting for the second time this year under its new two-day meeting schedule, the RBA board decided to keep the official cash rate target stable at 4.35 per cent.

Borrowers hoping for an interest rate cut – or a timeline of when variable rates may come down – were given little by RBA Governor Michele Bullock, who said “the war is not yet won” against inflation.

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In her monetary statement, she said inflation was still high, but gave no information away as to when – or if – the bank would cut rates, only stating it was not “ruling anything in or out”.

That’s a change in language from previous months, when rate holds were accompanied by a statement that the RBA couldn’t rule out a future rise.

While that has been interpreted by some analysts to mean the bank is stepping away from rate hikes and into a neutral stance, Bullock was far more guarded.

“As the statement says, we are neither ruling it in or out,” she said in a press conference following the board’s meeting.

“We have changed the language, that is true, but that was in response to some data which demonstrated to us that we are still broadly on the path we thought we were on.

“So we’re not confident enough to we can rule out further interest rate changes but we do think we are on the path to get ourselves back to inflationary targets within our forecast bearings.”

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RBA Governor Michele Bullock.
RBA Governor Michele Bullock says “the war is not yet won” against inflation. (Nine)

Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed the RBA’s decision, but acknowledged ”it is not anything like mission accomplished because people are still under considerable cost-of-living pressure”.

“This decision is a reflection of the good progress we are making as a country in the fight against inflation,” he said during question time.

“It gives us confidence that inflation is moderating in welcome and encouraging ways.”

In her statement on monetary policy, Bullock said it will still be a long time before inflation is in a position where rate cuts could be justified.

“While recent data indicates that inflation is easing, it remains high. The Board expects that it will be some time yet before inflation is sustainably in the target range,” she said.

“The path of interest rates that will best ensure that inflation returns to target in a reasonable timeframe remains uncertain and the Board is not ruling anything in or out.

“The Board will rely upon the data and the evolving assessment of risks.

“The Board will continue to pay close attention to developments in the global economy, trends in domestic demand, and the outlook for inflation and the labour market.

“The Board remains resolute in its determination to return inflation to target.”

Jim Chalmers during question time.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed the RBA’s decision to keep rates on hold. (Alex Ellinghausen/SMH)

CreditorWatch’s chief economist Anneke Thompson said the decision did not come as a shock to the markets.

“Today’s decision by the RBA to leave the cash rate on hold comes as no surprise, given the lack of any meaningful data pointing to the economy continuing to overheat and further threaten inflation rises,” Thompson said.

“In fact, National Accounts data released earlier in the month provided solid evidence that monetary policy tightening is having its intended impact on domestic demand. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only grew by 0.2 per cent over the December quarter, and by 1.5 per cent through the year.

“On a per capita basis, GDP has been negative now for three straight quarters, indicating that we are in a ‘per capita’ recession.”

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said many borrowers were eagerly awaiting any form of financial relief.

“This welcome news comes after a prolonged period of financial strain, but many homeowners are hoping for a lower cash rate,” he said.

“The next few months will be crucial in determining the trajectory of future interest rates.”

Steve Mickenbecker, finance expert at Canstar, said mortgagees will still have to wait “months” for home loan relief.

“Borrowers have borne the brunt of the Reserve Bank’s fight against inflation, coping with not just the higher cost of living but also loan repayments that have increased through the roof,” he said.

“At last, they can feel that the countdown to lower interest rates has started.”

Some experts believe any reduction in rates will be met with a horde of pent-up buyers ready to enter the market. (LOUIE DOUVIS)

Mickenbecker said borrowers awaiting a cut should not wait for the RBA before looking at their options to refinance.

“In the last cash rate cutting cycle the big banks held back part of the Reserve Bank cuts when they eventually came,” he said.

“This time around borrowers should not allow their relief at receiving a repayment reduction to persuade them to accept anything less than the full RBA rate cut.

“Even the most optimistic forecast from the big banks puts the first Reserve Bank cut six months away.

“Bringing a rate cut forward by refinancing into a lower rate loan now will have borrowers double-dipping on savings and bringing them forward.

“It’s time to look for a better rate now and not wait for the Reserve Bank.”

The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

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