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Inflation sees end of steady streak with March rise

By Reporter
3 minute read

The ABS has released its monthly consumer price index indicator.

The consumer price index (CPI) rose 3.6 per cent in the 12 months to March 2024, according to the latest monthly CPI indicator from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This was higher than the annual inflation figures of 3.4 per cent reported in the last three consecutive months and the 3.5 per cent forecast by economists.

Additionally, CPI rose 1 per cent in the March 2024 quarter, coming in higher than economist forecasts of 0.8 per cent, though it remained lower than the December quarter when it was 4.1 per cent.

The most significant contributors to the March quarter rise were education (5.9 per cent), health (2.8 per cent), housing (0.7 per cent), and food and non-alcoholic beverages (0.9 per cent), according to the ABS.

Particularly, education fees increased with the start of the calendar year and demonstrated the strongest quarterly rise since 2012.

Tertiary education rose 6.5 per cent with annual CPI indexation being applied to tertiary education fees while secondary education and preschool and primary education rose 6.1 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively.

A review of health fees, like consultation fees, saw the prices for medical and hospital services rise 2.3 per cent, which the ABS noted to be typical in the March quarter.

“The Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme Safety Net thresholds are also reset at the start of the calendar year, meaning fewer people qualify for subsidised prices for out-of-hospital services and pharmaceuticals,” it explained.

Meanwhile, the quarterly rise in housing was driven by rents (2.1 per cent) and new dwellings purchased by owner-occupiers (1.1 per cent).

“Rental prices rose 2.1 per cent for the quarter in line with low vacancy rates across the capital cities. Rents continues to increase at their fastest rate in 15 years,” ABS head of price statistics Michelle Marquardt said.

Higher labour and material costs, too, contributed to price rises this quarter for construction of new dwellings, though the 1.1 per cent increase is slightly lower than the 1.5 per cent rise in the December 2023 quarter.

The ABS data indicated food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose this quarter, driven by non-alcoholic beverages (3.4 per cent), fruit and vegetables (2.5 per cent), and food products not elsewhere classified (1.9 per cent).

A price fall for meat and seafood (-0.7 per cent) partially offset the quarterly rise.

Marquardt noted the annual trimmed mean inflation was 4.0 per cent, down from 4.2 per cent in the December quarter.

“This is the fifth quarter in a row of lower annual trimmed mean inflation, down from the peak of 6.8 per cent in the December 2022 quarter,” she said.