It’s March already which marks the beginning of Autumn. While this is traditionally the season when things cool down, the economic and political scene is gearing up with the Federal Budget later this month and a federal election expected by May.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February increased volatility on global financial markets and uncertainty about the pace of global economic recovery. Notably, crude oil prices surged above $US100 a barrel, breaking the $100 mark for the first time since 2014. Rising oil prices add to inflationary pressures and could set back global economic recovery in the wake of COVID. In Australia, the price of unleaded petrol hit a record 179.1c a litre in February and is expected to go above $2.
In the US, inflation hit a 40-year high of 7.5% in January. Australian inflation is a tamer 3.5% and this, along with unemployment at a 13-year low of 4.2%, is raising expectations of interest rate hikes. The Reserve Bank stated earlier in February that a rate hike in 2022 was ‘’plausible” but that it is ‘’prepared to be patient”. The Reserve is also looking for annual wage growth of 3% before it lifts rates, but with annual wages up just 2.3% in the December quarter Australian workers are going backwards after inflation. The average wage is currently around $90,917 a year.
Before the latest events in Ukraine, consumer and business confidence were improving. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer rating rose slightly in February to 101.8 points, while the NAB business confidence index was up 15.5 points in January to +3.5 points.
War in Ukraine has triggered a flight to safety, with bonds, gold and the US dollar rising while global shares plunged initially before rebounding but remain volatile. The Aussie dollar closed at US72.59c.