RBA's Rate Cut Holdup: Australia's Job Market Tightens Its Grip


Employment in Australia declined in March following a robust surge in the preceding month, while the unemployment rate resumed its upward trajectory. This suggests that although the labor market remains tight, it is gradually heading towards a moderate weakening, albeit at a slower pace.

The market response to these statistics was largely subdued. Post-release, the Australian dollar initially dipped before rebounding to $0.6440, while three-year bond futures maintained stability at 96.1.

Markets anticipating a downward trend in interest rates for the remainder of the year continue to believe that rates have reached their peak. That being said, the likelihood of monetary policy easing remains distant, with such measures expected to materialize, possibly, only by December.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday revealed a net employment decrease of 6,600 in March, following a robust increase of 117,600 in February. Market projections had anticipated a small gain of 10,000 people following February's strong performance.

The count of full-time workers saw a rise of 27,900 in March. Despite expectations of a slight uptick to 3.9%, the unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.8% from its previous level of 3.7%.

Analysts observe that the March data offers a clearer depiction of the present labor market conditions, with seasonal factors diminishing significance.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has maintained interest rates at 4.35% over the last three consecutive meetings, reflecting growing confidence in the ongoing weakening of the labor market. However, during the March meeting, it was emphasized that no options were disregarded concerning future policy directions. While the bank characterizes the current labor market situation as challenging, it anticipates the unemployment rate to rise to 4.2% by June and 4.3% by year-end.

Markets are convinced that interest rates have peaked but remain far from a potential decline. Swaps indicate merely a 65% probability of a rate reduction in December, underscoring the uncertainty surrounding the likelihood of any rate cuts within the year.

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