January Insights 2023

As a new year begins, we wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023. Many families will be glad to put 2022 behind them and although challenges remain, we look forward to better times ahead.

As 2022 drew to a close, investors remained focused on inflation, interest rates and recession worries. Inflation is running at around 7% to 11% in most advanced economies, including Australia (7.3%). The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lifted its target cash rate by another 25 basis points to 3.1% in December, the eighth monthly rise in a row, up from 0.1% in May. The RBA noted that “inflation is expected to take several years to return to target range (2-3%)”, and most economists expect at least one more rate increase.

High inflation and borrowing costs continued to weigh on consumers in December. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer price index was steady at 82.5 points in the run-up to Christmas, 26 points below the same period the year before. Slowing consumer demand and rising costs also dragged the NAB business confidence index into negative territory for the first time in 2022, down to -4.4 points in November.

But it’s not all bad news. Australian company profits rose 18.6% in the year to September, the fastest pace in five years. Unemployment remains low, despite edging up to 3.45% in November and annual wages growth was 3.1% in the September quarter, the fastest pace in a decade. The Aussie dollar lifted slightly to US68.13c in December, down 6% for the year. Iron ore prices lifted 8% over the month but were down 1% for the year, while oil prices (Brent Crude) eased slightly but were up 11.4% in 2022 as war in Ukraine disrupted supply.

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