The first official inflation reading since the Abbott government scrapped the carbon tax is about to be released.
The latest inflation figures may give a clue to the timing of a rise in interest rates, something the October Reserve Bank board minutes failed to do.
That’s assuming of course, you expect the next move in rates to be up.
TD Securities head of Asia Pacific Research Annette Beacher had hoped that after the bland post-board meeting statement on October 7, the minutes would flesh out concerns over strong housing investor demand and make a broader comment on a five cent drop in the Australian dollar.
“We were left empty-handed,” Ms Beacher said on Tuesday.
Instead the central bank, while touching on these issues, kept to a well-trodden path that the stance of monetary policy “continued to be appropriate” and a period of stability in interest rates was “prudent”.
The cash rate has remained at 2.5 per cent since August 2013.
Wednesday’s consumer price index may define how appropriate that level remains.
It will be the first official inflation reading since the Abbott government scrapped the carbon tax, which is expected to take pressure off prices.
Economists’ forecasts centre on a CPI rise of just 0.4 per cent in the September quarter, which would lower the annual rate to 2.2 per cent, the bottom end of the RBA’s 2-3 per cent target band.
Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe is less optimistic, predicting a 0.6 per cent rise in the quarter.
He says most forecasts appear based on the Treasury’s earlier estimate of a 0.7 percentage-point price impact from the introduction of carbon pricing in 2012.
Yet, the RBA subsequently estimated the impact being just 0.25 percentage points.
“If the tax added around 0.25 per cent on the way in, it looks ambitious to assume that it will take around 0.75 per cent off inflation on the way out,” Mr Blythe says.
Inflation aside, Macquarie Research economist James McIntyre is more concerned that fiscal policy could become a bigger drag on economic growth to combat weaker iron ore prices, slower wages growth and additional military expenditures.
“Further fiscal tightening and the subsequent confidence impacts on businesses and consumers would pose a challenge to the RBA’s already weak domestic demand outlook,” he says.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index shows that Australians are hardly jumping for joy as it is, stuck in a tight range around its long-run average for 10 consecutive weeks.