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23 Jun 2023 - Hedge Clippings | 23 June 2023



Hedge Clippings | 23 June 2023

Rate Rises and Inflation - what else?

The RBA started the tightening process just over 12 months ago in an effort to firstly contain, and then to subdue inflation. The timing was broadly in step with central banks in the UK and Europe as inflation was global. Given they're still increasing rates, or threatening to, and consumers seem reluctant to respond, one has to ask how successful they've been - or possibly how much worse inflation would be if central banks had sat on their collective hands?

This week in his twice yearly appearance before politicians trying to make a point, US Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said it was a "pretty good guess" that US rates would increase twice more this year as he tries to subdue inflation back to the 2% level while avoiding higher unemployment, and thus a recession. In the UK, the Bank of England is facing the same issue, increasing rates by a further 0.5%, stating "The economy is doing better than expected, but inflation is still too high (8.7%) and we've got to deal with it."

Unfortunately, "dealing with it" involves inflicting pain on consumers, as pointed out by RBA deputy Governor Michelle Bullock in her speech this week, giving Philip Lowe a break from the firing line. In spite of widespread anecdotal evidence of consumer pain being reflected by retail sales, particularly for big ticket and electrical goods, strong employment statistics, not only in Australia but also in the US and UK, are spoiling the objective of higher rates.

Bullock pointed out there needs to be a balance. With the RBA's current forecast of inflation returning to target (2-3%) by mid 2025, and unemployment increasing to 4.5% by the end of 2024, which they estimate still equates to "full employment," they judge that the balance between supply and demand will be achieved.

As Philip Lowe frequently points out, that balance can also be described as a "narrow path" between inflation, higher rates, and recession.

Meanwhile, equity markets continue to confound and confuse. The ASX All Ordinaries has risen 10.5% in the 12 months since 23rd of June, 2022. Wind the start date for that 12 month period back to 31st of May, and that 12 month performance becomes negative. Stock and sector selection, plus of course timing, has been key. On Tuesday next week, we are holding a further Sector Review, this time focusing on the resource sector. Register here for our manager round table webinar, where we will be joined by three Australian specialist resource managers to get their views on the opportunities and risks for the sector.

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