Preview: Here’s what to watch for in tomorrow’s all-important CPI data
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Investors have plenty to consider this week, with a bunch of key data and events on the schedule.
Overseas, the US Fed will take centre stage tomorrow night with its latest interest rate announcement.
But before then, the highlight of the local calendar is CPI data for the September quarter — due out from the ABS at 11:30am tomorrow (eastern time).
Although it’s a broad economic measure, the inflation print is still a relevant metric for stock investors — most notably because it’s directly linked to the outlook for interest rates.
The central bank maintains a target range for inflation of between 2 and 3 per cent, but in recent years Australia’s rate of inflation has remained stubbornly below that target.
Tomorrow, it’s expected to stay that way. The median market forecast is for inflation to rise by 0.5 per cent in the September quarter, leaving the annual rate of growth at 1.7 per cent.
After Australia’s unemployment rate edged lower earlier this month, markets have begun to revise their forecasts about when (or if) the RBA will cut rates again.
If tomorrow’s inflation print comes in ahead of forecasts, it could give momentum to those changing expectations.
For their part, the economics team at Westpac, led by chief economist Bill Evans, is forecasting a slight beat tomorrow. They’re forecasting quarterly growth of 0.6 per cent, pushing the annual growth rate to 1.8 per cent.
Westpac expects the gains to be driven by travel & accomodation costs as well as alcohol and tobacco, “mostly due to the annual re-indexing of the tobacco excise”.
If inflation beats forecasts, it’s likely that will add upward pressure to the Australian dollar, according to Western Union currency strategist Steven Dooley.
“The AUD/USD might jump to three-month highs tomorrow if local inflation is stronger than expected,” Dooley said.
Dooley added that the recent weakness in the AUD might also be a contributor itself to a slightly higher inflation print.
He noted that recent data for tradable inflation — goods that can be bought and sold overseas — had recently trended higher, while local non-tradable goods had continued to fall.
“This tells us that the falling Australian dollar is having an impact and boosting import prices,” Dooley said.
“With the AUD/USD falling to 10-year lows in August, the effect might be even more pronounced in tomorrow’s September-quarter inflation data.
“With market expectations for another rate cut in 2019 falling, a stronger number inflation tomorrow could all but eliminate hope for another cut this year.”