Australia Cuts Rates After Long Calm; Aussie Dollar Dives

After almost a year and a half of holding its policy interest rate unchanged, the Reserve Bank of Australia cut by a quarter percentage point Tuesday, citing weak inflation and a stronger-than-desired currency. The move put the cash rate at a historic low of 2.25%. With the interbank market having priced in a 60% chance of a cut, according to Reuters, the Australian dollar fell sharply on the news, dropping to 76.72 U.S. cents from 78 U.S. cents just before the announcement. Stocks rose, meanwhile, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 1.1%, extending its pre-decision gain of 0.3%. In comments accompanying the move, RBA Gov. Glenn Stevens said that the consumer price index "recorded the lowest increase for several years in 2014," and " it appears likely that inflation will remain consistent with the target over the next one to two years," given weak growth in labor costs. Meanwhile, Stevens repeated the RBA view that the Australian dollar remained "above most estimates of its fundamental value, particularly given the significant declines in key commodity prices."

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