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Where to next for Australia’s central bank?

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The Reserve Bank board will consider whether its bond-buying program needs tweaking when it holds its first monetary policy meeting since unveiling a historic suite of stimulus measures to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Board members decided at a March 18 emergency meeting that Australia’s economy would likely shrink in the March and June quarters — and potentially longer — and therefore the cash rate needed to be cut to a record low 0.25 per cent.

The RBA’s first out-of-cycle meeting since 1997 also deployed a range of quantitative easing measures in a bid to cushion the economic pain brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westpac’s economists are among those who do not expect the RBA to touch the cash rate on Tuesday as board members have already signalled it will likely remain lower bound “for some time”.

“As such, the focus of RBA meetings will be on how the board assesses its QE measures and whether they may require adjusting,” Westpac said in a note on Monday.

“For April we do not anticipate this requiring any adjustments.”

The RBA reduced the cash rate to 0.5 per cent at the bank’s regular March board meeting and has cut it by 1.25 percentage points since last June in a bid to stimulate the flagging Australian economy.

The widely anticipated March 18 emergency cut meant the central bank also pulled the trigger on its first-ever quantitative easing program to boost cash supply and encourage lending and investment.

Westpac said the RBA has so far purchased $29 billion worth of 10-year government bonds, while another $2 billion was expected to be bought on Monday afternoon.

The RBA has a target yield on three-year bonds of about 0.25 per cent.

The central bank also created a $90 billion lending facility to banks for small and medium businesses, adding to a $15 billion loan scheme for small and medium lenders that had just been announced by federal government.

The RBA neglected to give an official growth forecast a fortnight ago but it did tip significant job losses.

“The size of the fall in economic activity would depend on the extent of the social distancing requirements, and potential lockdowns, put in place to contain the virus,” minutes from the March 18 meeting say.

An increasing number of businesses have shut their doors and laid off staff amid intensifying restrictions to stop people gathering in groups and spreading the virus.

Tuesday’s monetary policy decision will be announced at 1430 AEST.

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