Autumn is here, and not a moment too soon after a prolonged heatwave over summer.
The Winter Olympics provided some welcome relief from the heat at home, and even
though we failed to score gold at Pyeongchang we came away with two silver medals, one
bronze and some promising young athletes to celebrate.
In the US, there was relief when the US Federal Reserve reported to Congress on
February 23 that it was comfortable with the inflation outlook and not inclined to lift rates
more than three times this year. Global shares stabilised after their recent volatility.
In Australia, the Reserve Bank has indicated rates are likely to remain on hold for some
time to encourage wage growth. Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe told the House of
Representatives Standing Committee on Economics he would like to see wage growth of
3.5 per cent. Instead, the Wage Price Index rose 2.1 per cent in the year to December, just
above inflation of 1.9 per cent, with public sector wages (up 2.4 per cent) growing faster
than private sector (1.9 per cent).
On a positive note, corporate profits were solid in the six months to December, with a
record 94 per cent of companies reporting a profit, although only 57 per cent lifted profit.
Unemployment fell from 5.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent in January and consumer sentiment
continues to recover. The ANZ/Roy Morgan consumer confidence rating rose 2.3 per cent
in the final week of February to 117.9, well above the historic average. The strengthening
US dollar saw the Aussie dollar fall from over US81c in January to around US78.5c by the
end of February.
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