At the same time the Melbourne Institute released its survey of consumer inflation expectations. It shows that consumers are feeling quite positive about the direction of inflation. The survey tells us consumers believe inflation will fall in September to 4.4%. We will wait to see how accurate this survey is. In the same survey 9.8% of the respondents thought the inflation rate would fall to below 3%, the RBA’s target level.

Let us suppose the great consumer has successfully predicted the inflation rate for the September quarter. The survey recorded 5.9% for July, 4.9% for August, and 4.4% for September. Yielding an average of 5%. This is still significantly above the RBA target band of 2-3%.

The ABS is due to release the September quarter CPI on 28th October. So, how did the Melbourne Institute survey perform in the previous quarter? The results were as follows. April 4.3%, May 5.2% and June 5.9% for an average of 5%. This was above the official figure for the June quarter of 4.5%.

We can’t extrapolate any further than to say that consumers overestimated inflation on average during the June quarter. It is possible they will do the same this quarter. The unknown quantity is what impact reporting of inflation expectations in the media has on the respondents.

The Rate Cut That May Cost You Money

The latest news from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was that the unemployment rate had fallen to 4.1% from 4.3% the previous month. These numbers were on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Graph: Unemployment rate

Source: ABS.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) jumped too soon. That is one reaction after seeing the latest unemployment numbers from the ABS.

The other reaction is that the RBA has accounted for this because it wants to avoid putting the economy into recession. The argument would say it is not worrying from an inflation perspective either.

Cost of Living Remains High

At the time when consumers were predicting inflation of 5.9% the media was full of stories about high petrol and food costs. Since then the price of petrol has moderated. Yet is still remains around $1.50 per litre, which is not that significantly lower than four months ago.

Because of this moderate decline in petrol costs there has been little comment in the press about it and therefore minimal commentary on the still high costs of living. Therefore, there is the reasonable prospect that consumers are being lulled into a false sense of low inflation and could be in for a shock when they realize their money isn’t worth quite as much as they thought.

We shouldn’t forget the unemployment numbers either. The RBA reduced interest rates this month because it believed that the economy was slowing. However, it did not want the economy slowing too much for fear of triggering a recession.

Although the RBA only made the decision this month, it had made it clear well in advance that an interest rate cut was on the cards. It is possible that Australian industry has pre-empted the RBA, anticipating the cut and hiring staff. The effect of this is to keep the labour market tight and potentially drive up wages and prices. Exactly the opposite of what the RBA is supposed to be striving for.

Boom and Bust

It could be argued the RBA’s intentions are admirable in trying to avert boom and bust cycles. The problem it now creates for itself is a continuous cycle of industry, the consumer and the RBA all trying to pre-empt each other’s actions.

The result? Boom and bust.

Cheers.

Kris

This article is contributed by Money Morning. Click on the link below for more information and to subscribe to their free newsletter /20080912/consumers-expect-inflation-rate-to-fall.html#more-751”





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