As February kicks off and with the summer holidays behind us, many of us are settling back into our regular routines and it’s time to turn our focus to the year ahead.

Cooling inflation and a strong economy with relatively low unemployment has sent investors back to Australian shares, with the S&P/ASX 200 hitting an all-time high on the last day of January. It was up by more than 12% since the end of October 2023.

Annual CPI for 2023 was 4.1%, much closer to the Reserve Bank’s target of between 2% and 3%. CPI in the December quarter was the lowest since March 2021 and below market expectations. The unemployment rate remained steady at 3.9% in December.

However, prices for most goods and services are still rising and the fall in discretionary spending is taking retail sales with it. Retail turnover fell 2.7% in December after a fall of 1.6% in November.

The falling inflation figures and the expectation that the RBA would hold interest rates saw a drop in the Australian dollar, which is also coming under pressure from a strengthening US economy.

Oil prices, at the mercy of a contraction in Chinese economic activity and the crisis in the Middle East have steadied with Brent Crude at just over $80 a barrel.

While the iron ore price halted its rise in January with a rapid dip mid-month, it’s since climbed back, defying expectations.

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