As Australia gears up for the much-anticipated release of the September quarter Consumer Price Index (CPI) data on 25 October, all eyes are glued to the numbers and predictions. The inflation stats aren’t just figures; they’re the pulse of the nation’s economy, affecting everything from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) monetary policy decisions to the petrol you pump into your car. Here’s what you need to know before the big announcement. Australia’s inflation rate took a dip in the second quarter of 2023, falling from 7.0% to 6.0% year-on-year. This could be seen as a positive, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The twelve months leading to August showed the monthly CPI indicator jumping by 5.2%, leaving economists and policymakers in a bit of a conundrum. What does it all mean for Australia’s economic health?
For starters, economists have been monitoring this like hawks. The inflation scenario is complex, and its potential impacts on the RBA’s monetary policy decisions are far-reaching. The RBA has previously expressed expectations for the CPI to drop from 7.0% in the March quarter to 6.3% in the June quarter, further slumping to 4.5% by the end of 2023.
However, Westpac economists have a slightly less optimistic projection, targeting around 4.1% inflation for the end of 2023. Even more conservative are forecasts from a panel of economists, who anticipate inflation sliding down to 3.9% by mid-2024 and further to 2.9% a year later. Stephen Wu, an economist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, predicts a modest 0.9% rise in headline CPI for Q3 2023, which equates to an annual rate of 5.1%.
What about the guy who adds a dash of humour to dismal economics? Stephen Koukoulas, Treasury, Head of Global Strategy TD, Advisor to PM Albanese, forecasted inflation plummeting to a range of 2 – 3% in 2023. Koukoulas amusingly suggests that inflation is set to fall as rapidly as it rose, but cautions that the current rate-hiking cycle may have reached its peak, especially with a slowing economy in the backdrop.
Speaking of a slowing economy, let’s talk about jobs. The employment figures haven’t been great. Only about 600 to 700 people were added to the workforce, and there’s been a sharp fall in the participation rate. Yes, the unemployment rate did drop from 3.7% to 3.6%, but don’t let that mislead you; it’s not due to job growth but rather a loss of employment momentum.
The RBA’s stance, as revealed by its chief Michele Bullock last week, is not to hike interest rates just yet. The bank has set the stage: if inflation doesn’t fall as quickly as hoped, a rate hike could be in the cards. On the flip side, if inflation behaves, the RBA will maintain its stance.
But wait! We’ve got a dark horse in this race—oil prices. The inflation numbers for the latter part of the quarter might get a shakeup due to petrol prices reaching as high as $2.10 or $2.20 a litre. Higher oil prices can act like a tax on growth, further muddling the RBA’s decisions. Craig James, chief economist at Commsec, pointed out that petrol has a significant impact on inflation expectations. While prices are currently at 2-1/2 month lows, this discounting cycle is expected to end soon.
So, as we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the CPI data, let’s not forget that these numbers are more than just statistics. They’re signals of economic health and predictors of policy change. Whether it’s the average Aussie wondering how much more they’ll be paying for their morning coffee or a policymaker sweating over a potential interest rate hike, Wednesday’s CPI numbers promise to be the talk of the town.
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Australia is eagerly awaiting the release of the September quarter Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, with a dip in #inflation rates prompting speculation about the Reserve Bank's future actions. 🇦🇺💹💬 #TheIndianSunhttps://t.co/l7JbAFhh1a
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) October 23, 2023