Australia’s inflation holds at two-year low in Jan

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 7:16 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian consumer price inflation held at a two-year low in January, dashing forecasts for a tick higher and reinforcing market expectations interest rates would not need to increase any further.

There has been limited market reaction as the January release is heavily weighted toward goods prices that have been falling faster than services, and thus suggest some scope for a downside surprise.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed its monthly consumer price index (CPI) rose at an annual pace of 3.4% in January, unchanged from December and under market forecasts of 3.6%.

A closely watched measure of core inflation, the trimmed mean, rose an annual 3.8%, down from 4.0% in December. Inflation excluding volatile items and holiday travel slowed to 4.1% from 4.2%.

For January alone, CPI fell 0.3% from the previous month, driven by declines in holiday travel, clothes and garments and petrol. Holiday travel slumped 5.2% from a month earlier.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has raised interest rates by 425 basis points since May 2022 to a 12-year top of 4.35%, and has not ruled out the risk of another hike if necessary to bring inflation back to the bank’s target band of 2-3%.

Financial markets are confident the RBA is done tightening. Swaps imply about a 60% chance of a first rate cut in August and a total easing of 38 basis points by the end of the year, little changed from before.

The Australian dollar was little changed at $0.6547, and three year bond futures held at 96.26.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Wayne Cole; Editing by Tom Hogue and Sam Holmes)