Australia’s inflation rate dropped from 5.6% to 4.9% in October, marking the first time it has been below 5% in 20 months. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ figures are based on a newer monthly measure of annual inflation, which was at 5.4% in the September quarter. The decrease was attributed to a 0.3% drop in average prices, driven by a 2.9% drop in petrol, a 7% drop in holiday travel and accommodation, and a 2.5% fall in household gas.
The average cost of rent also fell by 0.4% due to an increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance. The easing of inflation was not limited to specific sectors, as core inflation, which excludes volatile items like fruit, fuel, and holiday travel, also experienced a decline. Despite the drop, economists are now considering a further increase in interest rates at the Reserve Bank board meeting.
Australian retail sales fell by 1.2% in October, indicating a 6% decrease in purchases per person. The fall in Australian inflation was largely due to lower oil prices, but the higher Australian dollar, which climbed from 63.4 to 66.5 US cents in November, is expected to drive further price declines in Australian dollars. The US dollar has fallen amid expectations that no further US interest rate hikes will be needed due to lower inflation in the Western world. However, inflation in the cost of Australian services remains a concern for Reserve Bank Governor Michele Bullock.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release a major quarterly inflation report in January, ahead of the first Reserve Bank board meeting on February 5 and 6. The Reserve Bank’s goal of bringing inflation back to its target band of 2-3% by late 2025 remains challenging, especially with ongoing price pressures in the labor-intensive services sector. If Australia can continue to reduce inflation, interest rates may peak soon and possibly fall in 2024.