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March 2, 2023

Encouraging Signs Inflation is Cooling

WHILE THE 0.5% GROWTH FIGURE for the December quarter and 2.7% estimate for all of 2022 was on forecast, a tantalising bit of economic data is the sharp month on month fall in inflation in January.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics monthly inflation indicator came in at 7.4%, down noticeably from the surprise 8.4% reading in December, the first clear indication that we have seen of those pressures easing in the current bout of inflationary conditions. It will make the Reserve bank a bit more wary at its March meeting next Tuesday to lift rates by a mooted 0.50% – the increase looks like being 0.25% for another month.

The ASX-200 rose and then settled back and eventually closed down less than 0.1% on the day while the Aussie dollar slid in value and then regained the 67.50 US cent level in afternoon trading.

The 0.5% quarter on quarter GDP growth was lower than the forecast estimate of around 0.8% as rate increases finally saw the economy to cool and consumers slowed their purchases of discretionary goods and used up more of their savings.

But that didn’t stop them spending heavily on eating out, drinking and enjoying a fairly dry summer compared to a year ago.

And while some economists made a big deal of the 2.1% quarter on quarter rise in the broadest of wage measures, compensation of employees (COE) – that was down from the much larger 3.2% rise in the September quarter.

And while the solid December increase saw a through the year rise of 10.4% – the largest since the third quarter of 2007, there was a clear sign of easing with the ABS pointing out that the 2.1% rise included much of the one-off national wage rise.

The partial inflation report for January does however suggest that inflation has peaked, but we know from readings in the US and Europe, its sticky and there will not be a straight line drop as many economists had been suggesting earlier in the year after a peak was found.

It would seem local investors refused to take the bait of the slowing pace of growth in costs, mindful as they are of the US experience this year with a sudden halt to the drop in inflation and small rises in costs in some areas of the American economy.

The household saving to income ratio fell for the fifth consecutive quarter (from 7.1% to 4.5%, its lowest level since September, 2017).

Gross disposable income fell in the December quarter as growth in total income payable outpaced the increase in total gross income (thanks to rising interest rates on home loans and falling real wages).

This was despite the strength in compensation of employees and interest received on deposits (from rising interest rates).

Household spending rose 0.3% in the quarter and added 0.2 percentage points to GDP. Growth was driven by spending on Food (up 2.4%), Hotels, cafes and restaurants (up 1.6% with sales hit a record level in January this year, according to the ABS) and Transport services (up 5.7%).

Nominal GDP rose 2.1% in the quarter, up from the 1.2% rate in September but half the rate in the March and June quarters.

Overall, nominal GDP jumped 12% in 2022, one of the largest yearly rises for a while and helps explain why tens of billions of dollars in extra tax income has been pouring into the federal and state budgets – even if the stamp duty tap has been turned off because of the slide in house prices.

National Australia Bank economists said the economy is now 7.2% above its pre-COVID level.

“The activity side of the accounts shows that the economy has remained fairly resilient to the interest rate and price pressures through Q4 but that price and cost growth remains elevated and broad-based.

“The rebalancing of goods versus services spending is now well underway, with the level of goods consumption normalising.

“From here we expect consumption growth to stall, as the impact of higher rates continues to flow through. There are few implications for the near-term path of monetary policy with the RBA already signalling further increases in coming months.

“We continue to see the cash rate reaching 4.1% by May, though the strength of Q1 CPI and resilience of high frequency measures of consumer spending will be key.”

Extracted from ‘Encouraging Signs that Inflation is Cooling, published by Informed Investor.  Read the full article here (no subscription required).

This information is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances, goals and objectives. Therefore, you should consider its appropriateness for your circumstances before acting on this information.  

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