May 2021 Insights

May is here and in cooler regions the colours of autumn are all around. In Canberra, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is putting the finishing touches to the May 11 Federal Budget which will no doubt dominate the national conversation in coming weeks.

Australia’s economic recovery gathered steam in April, despite a spike in coronavirus cases overseas and vaccine delays. Australia’s trade surplus stood at a healthy $8.5 billion in March, underpinned by strong export prices for our commodities. Iron ore prices rose 16% in April and 21% over the year to date, due largely to renewed demand from China. China’s economic growth rebounded an extraordinary 18.3% in the year to March. Prices for our oil, copper, coal and beef have also recorded strong gains.

Higher commodity prices pushed the Aussie dollar up 2.4% in April to US77.72c, although record low interest rates are keeping stronger gains in check.
Australian consumers are gaining confidence in the recovery, despite the winding back of government stimulus payments. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment rose 6.2% in April to its highest level since 2010. One reason could be booming house prices, up 2.8% in March and 6.2% over the year, according to CoreLogic. Not so welcome are rising petrol prices which hit a 13-month high in April. While higher prices lifted inflation by 0.6% in the March quarter, it is still running at a low annual rate of 1.1%.

Rising employment is also a cause for optimism. The jobless rate fell from 5.8% to 5.6% in April and the Federal Government has announced it is targeting a rate beginning with a 4, supported by big spending initiatives in its upcoming Budget.

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