As expected consumer price inflation hit a 13 year high in the September quarter, rising 1.2% in the three months to give an annual rate of 5%.

But it won’t stop the Reserve bank from cutting interest rates at its Melbourne Cup meeting on November 4, although a slice of 0.50% off the cash rate of 6% might be reduced to a cut 0.25% the way money market rates are falling.

The bank is no longer looking at inflation, it is targeting demand levels in the economy via lending rates for borrowers, especially home buyers.

So its probably still on track for a cut of 0.50%, but should the banks cut their rates again before November 4, a rate cut of half that might result.

The dollar rose to 68 US cents (a forlorn move by optimists thinking rate rise, perhaps) and the figures didn’t move the market, which was off just over 2% at noon.

Figures released this morning by the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirm that the earlier predictions from Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens and the bank itself of a high level of inflation in the quarter (near 5.0% was nominated) were spot on.

The RBA has also indicated it sees another high inflation rate in the current quarter, before a downturn in inflation in the first six months of next year, as the minutes of the October 7 meeting, released yesterday showed.

Although the September quarter CPI, to be released before the next meeting, was likely to show an increase of around 5 per cent over the year, members noted that the current staff forecast was for inflation to start to decline in 2009. Moreover, the recent deterioration in global growth prospects, together with the more difficult market conditions even for creditworthy borrowers, increased the risk that demand and output could be significantly weaker than earlier expected. In that scenario, inflation would most likely fall faster than expected previously.

The rate for the quarter though was down on the high 1.5% in the June quarter, but the annual rate was up on the 4.5%.

The Reserve Bank’s favoured measures, the weighted mean and the trimmed mean both recorded rises in the quarter and in the annual rate. The two, the weighted mean and the trimmed mean rose by an average 4.7% in the year to September, compared with 4.4% in the year to June. That’s a high for those measures.

The ABS said that the annual rate for the year to the end of September of 5.0% was “the largest annual change since December quarter 1995, excluding the period associated with the introduction of the GST.”

The ABS said the CPI rose in all capital cities this quarter: Darwin rose 1.7%, Canberra 1.5%, Brisbane 1.4%, Adelaide 1.3%, Melbourne 1.2%, Sydney and Hobart 1.1%, while Perth saw a 1.0% increase.

At the expenditure group level, housing was the most significant contributor in all cities. Food prices rose in all cities and were the second most important contributor in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney and Hobart. In Brisbane the second most important contributor was transportation. In Darwin it was recreation, while in Perth it was alcohol and tobacco. Financial and insurance services was a significant contributor in all cities except Darwin.

Rents and house purchase were significant contributors in all cities. Water and sewerage prices rose strongly in all cities except Brisbane and Darwin. Deposit and loan facilities contributed strongly in all cities, while automotive fuel contributed strongly in all cities except Canberra and Perth.

Peter Fray

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