Inflation reading 'no smoking gun' for rate cut

A closely watched measure shows inflation remained weak last month, helped by the strong dollar, but the cost of key services is rising.

The TD Securities - Melbourne Institute Inflation Gauge rose by 0.3 per cent in January.

That puts the annual rate of inflation at 2.5 per cent, which is at the middle of the Reserve Bank's target range.

TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific research, Annette Beacher, says the strong dollar kept prices for goods like computers and furniture low, but prices of services like utilities, education and transport all rose last month.

"So in fact in terms of the day to day pressures on the household budget, it's those pressures that are really impacting on a day to day basis, and that's the inflation that should be of concern and should be discussed more widely," she said.

The report attributes much of the rise in education, transport and utility costs to seasonal factors, with many annual or semiannual price increases taking place in January.

A fall in clothing and footwear prices was also seasonal, due mainly to post-Christmas retail sales.

While the headline inflation reading was in the middle of the RBA's target range, the bank's preferred trimmed mean (which removes some volatility from the figures) was up 0.2 in January for a 2.2 per cent rise over the past year.

That reading in the bottom half of the RBA's target range gives it scope to lower the official interest rate again, but Ms Beacher expects the central bank to leave interest rates on hold after the many cuts made last year.

"It's certainly not a smoking gun for further easing.

The RBA are certainly well placed to sit and discuss the outlook for 2013," she said.

"Particularly compared with a year ago, cash rates are 125 basis points lower than they were a year ago and so I think the RBA are very relaxed and comfortable and should leave the cash rate where it is at 3 per cent."

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