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Australia Q1 inflation rate at 2-1/2-year low of 1.3%

Christian Fernsby |
The annual inflation rate in Australia fell to 1.3 percent in the first quarter 2019 from 1.8 percent in the previous period and missing market expectations of 1.5 percent.

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It was the lowest inflation rate since the third quarter 2016, amid a slowdown in petrol and housing prices.

Year-on-year, cost of housing advanced 0.8 percent in the first quarter, much slower than a 1.5 percent rise in the preceding period, mainly due to rents (0.4 percent vs 0.5 percent) and new dwelling purchase by owner-occupiers (1.2 percent vs 1.8 percent).

Also, cost of transport was flat, compared to a 2.8 percent rise in the December quarter, with prices of automotive fuels declining sharply (-3.5 percent vs 6.7 percent). In addition, prices slowed for: alcoholic and tobacco (6.4 percent vs 6.8 percent); health (3.1 percent vs 3.3 percent); recreation and culture (0.9 percent vs 1.7 percent); and insurance and financial services (1.1 percent vs 1.5 percent).

At the same time, cost continued to drop for: clothing and footwear (-0.1 percent vs -0.7 percent); furnishings, household equipment and services (-0.8 percent, the same as in Q4); and communication (-4.6 percent vs -4.3 percent).

In contrast, prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 2.3 percent, accelerating markedly from a 1.5 percent rise in the prior quarter.

This was the highest food inflation since the September quarter 2014, mostly driven by meat and seafoods (4.2 percent vs 2.4 percent in Q4); dairy and related products (1.2 percent vs 1.1 percent); and fruits and vegetables (5.8 percent vs 1.6 percent).

Also, cost of education rose faster (2.9 percent vs 2.7 percent in Q4).

RBA Trimmed Mean CPI rose 1.6 percent year-on-year in the three months to March, slowing from a 1.8 percent rise in the previous period and slightly below market expectations of 1.7 percent.

Quarter-on-quarter, the index increased by 0.3 percent, following a 0.4 percent gain in the last quarter 2018 and a bit less than estimates of a 0.4 percent rise.

RBA Weighted Mean CPI went up 1.2 percent year-on-year, easing from a 1.7 percent growth in the December quarter and missing forecasts of 1.6 percent.

On a quarterly basis, consumer prices were flat in the first quarter, the weakest quarterly reading in three years, after a 0.5 percent rise in the previous three months, while markets had estimated 0.2 percent.

The latest quarterly figure was a result of price rises in a number of goods and services being fully offset by a number of price falls. This was consistent across most of the capital cities.

The most significant rises in this quarter were vegetables (7.7 percent), secondary education (4.2 percent) and motor vehicles (2.4 percent).

These rises were offset by falls in automotive fuel (-8.7 percent), domestic holiday, travel and accommodation (-3.8 percent) and international holiday, travel and accommodation (-2.1 percent).

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