Domestic Market Operations

As part of its responsibility for monetary policy, the Reserve Bank Board sets a target for the cash rate. This is the rate at which banks borrow from and lend to each other on an overnight, unsecured basis. The rate is determined by the demand and supply of exchange settlement balances that commercial banks hold at the Reserve Bank. Through its open market operations, the Reserve Bank alters the volume of these balances so as to keep the cash rate as close as possible to its target.


Guy Debelle, Assistant Governor (2007 – 2016)

The Bank has two roles: it operates in the domestic market and it operates in international markets. The Reserve Bank Board sets a target for the cash rate at its monthly meetings and it's the job of the domestic operations to make sure that target is actually achieved. It does that by adjusting the supply of funds in the interbank market, so that the banks have an incentive to lend their money between themselves at the cash rate. So we control the supply; they have the demand, and the net outcome of that is the price.

To adjust the supply of liquidity in the market, the Bank operates in the market by either buying or selling securities, which is the stuff you read in textbooks. But mostly what we do is actually something called a repo, which is we lend or borrow money from the banking system against collateral (normally a government security), but also bank paper as well. So we inject money into the system by lending to a bank and, in return, they provide us with a security.

We operate in the market every day. We do it at 9.45 in the morning, so at 9.30 am we publish on the news services what our intention is that day: we tell them how much liquidity we're going to inject, what we intend to inject into the market, and at what term we're going to do. So we don't lend overnight generally – almost never. We lend for a period of time – a month or two. The banks, or any other participant, can ring us back with their bids by 9.45 am each day. It's an auction, so whoever gives, or offers us the best price, is the one we accept. Normally we accept multiple bids and we also do, since last November, a second round of open market operations, potentially each day at around 5.10 pm in the day, about one in every two or three days. With the move to fast settlements now, there is a requirement that the liquidity position in the market at the end of the day is right where we want it to be.

It's because we operate in the market every day that we get to assess the demand of counterparties for liquidity. As I said, we control the supply, they have the demand, and we can see how much they're demanding. If they're demanding more, we can increase the supply to make sure that the price, which is the cash rate, stays where the Board wants it to be. But also because we're interacting with market participants every day in doing these transactions, it gives us a lot of insight into the conditions in the market because we're actually a participant in the market ourselves.