Fewer than 1 in 6 Australians expect interest rates to fall in 2020

author-avatar By on February 13,2020
Fewer than 1 in 6 Australians expect interest rates to fall in 2020

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

Fewer consumers expect mortgage interest rates to go lower in 2020, despite what many economists are saying.

According to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment for February, only 16% of Australian adults think rates will fall over the year.

This is at odds with institutional economists' forecasts, with most predicting the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will rate cut to 0.50% in April.

The figure is even lower than what it was in August 2019 when 22% expected rate cuts over the next year. 

The report also showed overall sentiment among Australian consumers rose 2.3% from 93.4 in January to 95.5 in February.

Despite the uptick on the month, the Index remains well below the 'long run' average of 101.4, where a reading below 100 indicates pessimists outnumber optimists. 

Compared to a year ago, overall sentiment is down 8% - 103.8 in February 2019, compared to 95.5 in February 2020.

The report outlined several reasons for the pessimistic outlook, with bushfires, family finances, and the housing sentiment as major drivers.

Miserable Millennials

Overall sentiment among 18-24 year olds'  fell by 5.2% in February while 25-44 year olds' sentiment fell by 5.5%, at 21 month and 2.5 year lows respectively. 

This is a phenomenon the CommSec has termed the 'Miserable Millennials'.

"The ‘smashed avocado’ generation aren’t happy," CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said.

"Altered aspirations around housing affordability could be a key factor."

Aussie consumers’ house price expectations rose to the highest level since March 2017, up 73% from a year ago in February.

"The impact on first home buyer loan demand - currently representing a very healthy percentage of all owner occupier commitments (excluding refinancing) in December - will be something to watch as home prices continue to surge in the big cities," Mr Felsman said. 

Meanwhile, the 'right time to buy' a home sub-index fell 5.6% to 112.1, reflecting the recent surge in house prices around the country. 

In December 2019, home loan lending accelerated to its highest level since July 2018, with the monthly value of new home loan approvals rising 4.4%. 

After three RBA rate cuts in the second half of 2019, the value of home loan lending soared 20.7% from May 2019, driven mostly by owner-occupier lending (up 22.8%).

The value of lending to first home buyers in December was up 38% on the year.

What does all this mean for the overall economy?

Consumer confidence is a major driver in the overall economy, and can affect spending habits and overall home ownership participation - a major part of the Australian economy.

Mr Felsman said consumers remain cautious. 

"Negative newsflow around the bushfires, floods and Novel Coronavirus are adding to long-standing worries about the economy, household finances and job security," Mr Felsman said. 

"The Aussie dollar hit 11-year lows this week - perhaps weighing on overseas travel plans."

This is despite overseas debit card spending hitting historic highs in December, even after accounting for the holiday season busy period.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment report is released every month, and was first undertaken in 1973 as a quarterly survey. 

The table below displays a selection of variable-rate home loans with some of the lowest interest rates on the market.

Ad rate
Comp rate*
2.84% 2.80% $1,652 More details
2.95% 2.99% $1,676 More details

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 75%. The product and rate must be clearly published on the Product Provider’s web site. Introductory rate products were not considered for selection. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term. Rates correct as at 18 February 2020. View disclaimer.


The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered which includes retail products from at least the big four banks, the top 10 customer-owned institutions and Australia’s larger non-banks:

  • The big four banks are: ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac
  • The top 10 customer-owned Institutions are the ten largest mutual banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia, ranked by assets under management in November 2019. They are (in descending order): Credit Union Australia, Newcastle Permanent, Heritage Bank, Peoples’ Choice Credit Union, Teachers Mutual Bank, Greater Bank, IMB Bank, Beyond Bank, Bank Australia and P&N Bank.
  • The larger non-bank lenders are those who (in 2019) has more than $9 billion in Australian funded loans and advances. These groups are: Resimac, Pepper, Liberty and Firstmac.

Some providers' products may not be available in all states. To be considered, the product and rate must be clearly published on the product provider's web site.

In the interests of full disclosure, Savings.com.au and loans.com.au are part of the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings.com.au manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please click through onto the web site links.

*The Comparison rate is based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.

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Harrison joined Savings in 2020. He is a journalist with more than four years of experience, with previous stints at News Corp and financial comparison site Canstar. With a keen interest in personal finance, Harrison is passionate about helping consumers make more informed financial decisions.


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