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Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 04:10 GMT Oct 3/00:10 EST Oct 3
By Sophia Rodrigues
     SYDNEY (MNI) - The Reserve Bank of Australia left its official cash rate
unchanged and presented a slightly more upbeat statement while signaling
slightly reduced worries about the housing market.
     The statement suggests the next move in the cash rate is likely to be up
but the timing could be longer than market anticipated given the continued
concern on the exchange rate, high household debt and expectations that
inflation will pick up only gradually.
     As expected the cash rate was kept on hold at 1.5% for the thirteenth
meeting in a row.
     The RBA maintained the commentary on the exchange rate despite the very
recent bounce seen in the U.S. dollar. The higher Australian dollar is "weighing
on the outlook for output and employment. An appreciating exchange rate would be
expected to result in a slower pick-up in economic activity and inflation than
currently forecast," the RBA said.
     There were a few positive comments on the local economy which were in line
with recent comments by senior RBA officials, but none pointed to any
significant change in its growth or inflation outlook.
     In particular, the RBA said that over recent months there have have been
more consistent signs that non-mining business investment is picking up but
added that a "consolidation of this trend would be a welcome development."
     The RBA also pointed to the high level of business conditions. Despite this
and other recent positive data, it remained cautious, maintaining its outlook
that growth would "gradually pick up over the coming year."
     The RBA said employment continued to grow strongly, with increase in all
states and a rise in labor force participation but maintained that the jobless
rate is expected to decline only gradually over the next couple of year.
     The RBA also pointed to a rise in capacity utilization, which was a new
addition to the cash rate statement, and yet maintained its outlook that
inflation would "pick up gradually as the economy strengthens."
     The lack of any upgrade in the growth or inflation outlooks mainly stems
from the RBA's continued view that growth in real wages will remain slow and
high levels of household debt are likely to constrain growth in household
spending.
     The commentary on the housing market signaled the central bank's concerns
are easing, with the RBA noting that borrowing by investors has slowed a little
recently. The RBA also pointed to further signs that conditions are easing in
the Sydney housing market. 
     These comments suggest any further macro-prudential measures to slow the
housing market will not be needed and mortgage holders can take comfort that
their interest rates are unlikely to rise in the near future.
     The commentary on global growth and markets was largely unchanged, in line
with expectations.
--MNI Sydney Bureau; tel: +61 2-9716-5467; email: sophia.rodrigues@marketnews.com

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