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Income and fixed interest wrap: latest outlook for inflation, rates and bonds

Here are the latest insights on the fixed interest landscape from Pendal’s head of government bond strategies TIM HEXT

EACH quarter the Reserve Bank releases its economic forecasts as part of a monetary policy statement.

Most investors are happy to see a few headlines and take the rest as given.

For bond investors, though, these forecasts are very important.

They tell us what the RBA expects – and sets parameters for what might trigger a rate move over the next quarter.

In May, inflation was forecast to finish the year at 4.5%. 

In August this was revised to 3.9%. Now it is back at 4.5%.

Why the revision in August? Well, the Q2 CPI had just come out at 0.8%, helped by falling oil prices.

Prices then turned around in Q3, pushing inflation up to 1.2%. 

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Pendal’s Income and Fixed Interest funds

We could smooth it out and call it 1% on average – but the RBA is currently in the business of fine tuning, and keen to regain its damaged inflation credentials.  

So up goes the forecast and up go cash rates.

Rates outlook

For what it’s worth, we see Q4 inflation at around 0.7% to 0.8%, meaning inflation will end the year at 4.2%, rather than 4.5%. 

If we are right, then the rate hike was not needed.

More importantly, this makes the chance of a February hike very low.

Beyond February, inflation should remain sticky around 0.8% to 0.9% a quarter, meaning rate cuts are off the table for most of 2024.

By the middle of next year, US rate cuts may well be on the table, helping bonds find more support.

The RBA expects inflation to hit 3.6% by mid-2024, a forecast we roughly agree with.

That’s still above their preferred 2-3% band, but would reclassify inflation as “high to uncomfortably high” – though manageable. (We don’t expect the RBA to be quite so explicit, however).

The next few months will reveal what kind of damage this pre-Christmas hike has had on the economy.

As always, we will be watching leading indicators and leaning heavily on our equities team to get an insight into retailers this Christmas.

For now though, our models and our macro outlook are bond friendly.

Yields, despite their comeback this month, remain attractive on a medium-term basis.

About Tim Hext and Pendal’s Income & Fixed Interest boutique

Tim Hext is a Pendal portfolio manager and head of government bond strategies in our Income and Fixed Interest team.

Tim has extensive experience in banking, financial markets and funding including senior positions with NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp), Westpac Treasury, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bank, Bain & Co and Swiss Bank Corporation.

Pendal’s Income and Fixed Interest boutique is one of the most experienced and well-regarded fixed income teams in Australia.

The team won Lonsec’s Active Fixed Income Fund of the Year award in 2021 and Zenith’s Australian Fixed Interest award in 2020.

Find out more about Pendal’s fixed interest strategies here

About Pendal Group

Pendal is a global investment management business focused on delivering superior investment returns for our clients through active management.

In 2023, Pendal became part of Perpetual Limited (ASX:PPT), bringing together two of Australia’s most respected active asset management brands to create a global leader in multi-boutique asset management with autonomous, world-class investment capabilities and a growing leadership position in ESG.

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This information has been prepared by Pendal Fund Services Limited (PFSL) ABN 13 161 249 332, AFSL No 431426 and is current at November 21, 2023. PFSL is the responsible entity and issuer of units in the Pendal Monthly Income Plus Fund (ARSN: 137 707 996) and Pendal Dynamic Income Fund (ARSN: 622 750 734) (Funds). A product disclosure statement (PDS) is available for the Fund and can be obtained by calling 1300 346 821 or visiting www.pendalgroup.com.

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