Inflation rate creeps towards RBA target zone: CommSec

Inflation rate creeps towards RBA target zone: CommSec
Inflation rate creeps towards RBA target zone: CommSec

EXPERT OBSERVER

The Consumer Price Index – the main measure of inflation in Australia – rose by 0.5% in the September quarter, in line with expectations. In seasonally adjusted terms the CPI rose by 0.3%. The annual rate of headline inflation lifted from 1.6% to 1.7%. The Aussie dollar was unchanged against the greenback in response.

The Reserve Bank monitors three measures to derive the underlying inflation rate. The trimmed mean rose by 0.4% in the September quarter (1.6% annual); the weighted median rose by 0.3% (1.2% annual) and the CPI less volatile items rose by 0.8% (1.9% annual).

Overall, underlying inflation rose by around 0.5% in the quarter and by around 1.5% over the year. Market goods and services less volatile items rose by 0.8% in the quarter (biggest rise in almost four years) to be up 1.8% on the year.

International holiday travel (+6.1%), tobacco (+3.4%), property rates & charges (+2.5%) and child care (+2.5%) recorded the most significant price gains. The most significant offsetting price falls this quarter are automotive fuel (-2.0%), fruit (-3.1%), and vegetables (-2.5%).

What does it all mean?

Inflation remains contained. The headline annual inflation rate has bottomed, but it is creeping, rather than leaping, towards the Reserve Bank’s 2-3% target band. That is more than we can say about ‘underlying inflation’ which solidly remains near 1.5%.

Headline inflation may be boosted by the drought effects on food prices in coming quarters. Higher home prices may serve to lift some price measures in the ‘Housing’ grouping. Wage growth may remain low but it is still outpacing prices. And with productivity growth near zero, the positive real wage growth may be applying some upward pressure on prices – especially in the services sector.

The Reserve Bank has indicated that rate cuts are still possible. But the language from the policymakers suggest that they are very reluctant rate cutters from here. Rates are low enough and the rate cuts have actually been having the opposite to the desired affect – spooking Aussie consumers. And there is evidence to support the ‘gentle turning point’ view of the Reserve Bank. Unemployment fell last month and home prices are again barrelling higher in Sydney and Melbourne. 

The Reserve Bank is expected to wait until at least February 2020 to decide if more interest rate stimulus is required.

Craig James is the chief economist at CommSec

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Cpi Commsec

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