SWP Newsletter – May 2024

As winter approaches and the weather grows cooler, commentary around the 2024-25 Federal Budget is heating up, with the government facing the tension between addressing cost of living pressures without contributing to rising inflation.

The cost of living continues to bite with consumers keeping their wallets firmly closed. Retail sales fell 0.4% in March after getting a boost from the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ the previous month and prices continue to rise with a CPI increase in the March quarter to 3.6% annually. Education, health, housing and food recorded the biggest price increases for the quarter.

The markets have been subdued too with the prospect of further interest rate rises both in Australia and the US. The S&P/ASX 200 was down by about 2.5% for April. Some economists are predicting that we may not see the first cuts in interest rates until November. Mining stocks have been generally buoyant as commodity prices continue to surge while the energy and retail sectors have struggled.

The Australian dollar is back from the doldrums mid-month to end April at just over US65c. But with a strengthening US dollar, economists are rethinking their six-month outlooks for the Aussie with predictions now of between US65c and US69c. The surprise player in our currency’s fortunes has been the ailing Japanese yen. Its weakness has been our gain with the Aussie ending April above 100 yen, its highest level since 2014.