With Autumn underway, the changing season is a reminder to take stock and prepare for what’s ahead as the financial year heads towards its final quarter and the May Federal Budget.
The gloomy prospects for economic growth, both in Australia and overseas, are occupying the minds of investors, businesses and political leaders.
The Reserve Bank of Australia believes global growth will remain subdued for the next two years and that Australia‘s economy will slow this year because of rising interest rates, the higher cost of living and declining real wealth. The RBA forecasts the unemployment rate, currently at a low 3.5%, to rise by mid year and inflation, which was 7.8% over 2022, to drop to by around 2-3% over coming years thanks to an easing in global prices that will eventually flow through to Australian prices. Oil prices fell almost 3% in February reversing the increase of the previous month.
There have been some economic bright spots recently such as the rebound in retail trade in January of 1.9% after a 4% plummet in sales figures in December. And, Australia‘s current account surplus increased $13.3 billion to $14.1 billion in the December quarter 2022 supported by sustained high commodity prices including $400 billion worth of mining commodity exports during 2022.
That positive news was enough to lift the Australian dollar slightly to just over US67c, halting a slow decline during February.
Australian shares were down by almost 3% during February, while US stocks were down by just over 2% for the month and more than 7% for the past year.