Pause for Thought
With the RBA being one of the first central banks to pivot on rates this year, the latest Aussie inflation data will no doubt be disappointing. Year-on-year, inflation came in at 7.3% last month, marking a sharp rise from the prior month’s 6.9% and a beat on the 7.2% market forecast. Core inflation was also higher, rising to 5.6% from 5.4% prior. In all, the data suggests that the RBA’s path back towards its target 2%-3% band will not be linear and, as such, traders are wondering whether the bank will be forced to step-back-up the pace of its tightening program in order to ensure that inflation heads lower again.
RBA: Monetary Policy Not Set in Stone
The RBA had warned at the last meeting that monetary policy was not set in stone and would remain subject to incoming data, specifically inflation and employment. While many were focusing on the dovish implications should inflation begin to cool quicker, today’s data has thrown a spanner-in-the-works so to speak and raises the prospect of a fresh uptick in RBA tightening.
House Prices Rise Sharply
Looking at the breakdown of the data, housing was one of the biggest contributors, rising almost 10% year-on-year. There were some more idiosyncratic factors too, however, which might afford the RBA some scope. Recent flooding and bad weather in parts of Australia are said to be the cause of the sharp uptick in food prices last month with fruit and vegetables in particular seeing a big spike. With rainfall said to have been well above average, seasonally, the RBA will likely wait to see if these dynamics correct at the next reading before taking any fresh tightening action.
Transport Costs Up Again
Another factor which is likely more worrying, however, is the second month-on-month increase in transport costs which rose 2.2%. Motor fuel in particular rose almost 6% following a 7% rise the prior month and while prices at the pump fell back in December, they are already rising again this month, suggesting further issues for the RBA.
For now, it will likely be a case of wait-and-see for the RBA. One fresh uptick, though worrying, is unlikely to see the bank adjust rates higher. However, should this month’s data come in hot also, we can expect the RBA to revised its tightening program higher near-term. AUD has been a little higher on the back of the release though this is likely more linked to better risk sentiment.
The rally off the .6681 lows has seen the market breaking above the .6857 lows. With momentum studies bullish, while price holds above here, the focus is on a further push towards the .7103 level next. To the downside, .6681 remains the key support to note.