Tuesday brought Retail Sales and Current Account figures. Australian retail turnover rose 0.1 per cent in January 2018, seasonally adjusted, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Retail Trade figures. This follows a 0.5 per cent fall in December 2017. "There were offsetting movements by industry with rises in other retailing (1.0 per cent), household goods retailing (0.1 per cent), and cafes, restaurants and takeaways (0.1 per cent) being offset by falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessories (-0.7 per cent) and department stores (-0.6 percent)," Ben James, Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys at the ABS, said. "Food retailing was relatively unchanged (0.0 per cent)."
Separate report on Current Account showed that seasonally adjusted current account deficit rose $3,011 million to $14,024 million in the December quarter 2017. In seasonally adjusted terms, the balance on goods and services deficit in the December quarter 2017 was $117 million, a turnaround of $2,094 million from a surplus of $1,977 million in the September quarter 2017. Imports of goods and services rose $1,953 million and exports of goods and services fell $140 million. The net primary income deficit widened $899m in the December quarter 2017.
However, the focus of the session was on RBA interest rate decision and the following statement. The Reserve Bank of Australia has left the cash rate at a record-low 1.5 per cent, as sluggish wage growth and inflation put the board in a holding pattern for the 17th meeting in a row. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe used the word "gradual" to describe Australia's economic recovery three times in his short statement on monetary policy on Tuesday, indicating the bank is in no rush to raise interest rates from their historic lows. "The low level of interest rates is continuing to support the Australian economy. "Further progress in reducing unemployment and having inflation return to target is expected, although this progress is likely to be gradual."
Wednesday's session brought Australian GDP figures. The Australian economy grew 0.4 per cent in seasonally adjusted chain volume terms in the December quarter 2017, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman, said: “Growth this quarter was driven by the household sector, with continued strength in household income matched by growth in household consumption.” Compensation of employees (COE) increased 1.1 per cent in the December quarter, the fourth consecutive quarter of solid growth.
Thursday's session was marked by Australian Trade Balalnce figures. Australia’s international trade balance swung back to surplus in January, recovering following a large deficit in December. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a surplus of $1.055 billion was recorded during the month in seasonally adjusted terms, more than five times larger than the $200 million surplus that had been expected by economists. It was the largest trade surplus since September 2017. December’s trade deficit, originally reported at $1.358 billion, was also revised to show a deficit of $1.146 billion.
There were no data releases from Australia on Friday, both from China CPI and PPI figures were released. Yuan is tumbling after Chinese Consumer prices spiked 2.9% YoY in February - the biggest jump in inflation since Nov 2013. Consumer prices jumped 1.2% MoM and 2.9% YoY (considerably higher than the 2.5% jump expected). The biggest driver of the price surge being food (something few can do without) which soared 4.4% - the biggest jump since June 2016. On the other hand producer prices rose less than expected, up 3.7% YoY in Feb (vs 3.8% exp and 4.3% in Jan).
This week markets will be looking at:
NAB Business Confidence (Tuesday 1:30)
China Industrial Production (Wednesday 3:00)