Inflation numbers tipped to show genuine progress

Australia's consumer price index held steady at 3.4 per cent in the 12 months to January.

Australia's consumer price index held steady at 3.4 per cent in the 12 months to January. Photo: AAP

Inflation numbers for the final three months of 2023 will set the scene for this year’s first cash rate call.

The December quarter consumer price index is expected to come in on the softer side on Wednesday and allow the Reserve Bank to stay on hold when it meets on February 6.

The previous three-monthly reading from the Australian Bureau of Statistics had inflation increasing 5.4 per cent annually through to September, and lifting 1.2 per cent for the quarter.

The headline figure is tipped to lift 4.3 per cent annually in December and 0.8 per cent quarterly, based on ANZ’s economic forecasts, with the bank expecting the trimmed mean to rise 0.9 per cent in the quarter and 4.4 per cent annually.

Such a result would be lower than the central bank’s latest set of forecasts, ANZ economists offered, consistent with the RBA leaving interest rates untouched at 4.35 per cent in February.

The note prepared by head of Australian economics Adam Boyton and other economists at the bank pointed to weakening price and cost pressures in a key business survey as signs of cooling inflation.

“Still, it is too soon to be confident that the battle against inflation is won,” they wrote.

While the consumer price index will be the star of the show, the data-heavy week kicks off with retail trade numbers on Tuesday.

The December data from the ABS is tracking towards a sharp four per cent contraction in the month, according to Commonwealth Bank predictions, to reflect shifting shopping habits around Black Friday.

“Such an outcome in December would imply only a small increase in retail volumes over the quarter and a softening since the September quarter,” CBA economist Stephen Wu wrote in a note.

Other major releases from the bureau include building approvals data and export and import price information, both out on Thursday.

A slew of housing data is also scheduled for the week, starting with home prices from real estate data firm CoreLogic and building approvals from the ABS on Thursday.

On Friday, the bureau is due to release lending indicators, which includes information on housing loans.

Australian shares extended their winning streak to a fifth day on Thursday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX200 finishing up 36.2 points, or 0.48 per cent, to a three-week high of 7555.4.

The broader All Ordinaries rose 37.1 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7785.2.

The ASX was closed on Friday for the Australia Day public holiday.


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