Are you paying more or less in 2017?

Wed, 16 Aug 2017  |  

This article first appeared on the Yahoo7 Finance at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/1607453-054918623.html 

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Are you paying more or less in 2017?

When it comes to questions of cost of living, Australians are not all that good at identifying where their household budgets are being stretched or where they are making savings.

In its most recent survey, polling company Essential Research, asked voters whether “compared to two or three years ago, is your household paying more or less for the following” and thereafter it listed 10 items.  Since the end of 2014, two and a half years ago, the overall consumer price index has risen by 3.8 per cent, a modest overall gain over that time.

The respondents were spot on when it came to judging electricity and gas prices. A total of 84 per cent said that they were paying “a lot more or a little more” for their power. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, since the end of 2014, electricity prices have in fact risen 7.1 per cent.In terms of insurance costs, 69 per cent indicated that they were paying more, a figure confirmed by the ABS with an 11.6 per cent rise since the end of 2014.

For medical and dental costs, 63 per cent indicated they were paying more, with just 3 per cent saying they were paying less. The ABS data indicate that medical, dental and hospital costs have risen a substantial 16.9 per cent in just two and a half years.

These results are not surprising.

Consumers were, however, wide of the mark when it came to some other items.

The cost of clothing was a case in point. Over the past two and a half years, the price of clothing has fallen 4.3 per cent, but 44 per cent said that they were paying a little or a lot more. Only 10 per cent answered that they were paying “a little or a lot less” for their clothing.

It was a similar, yet more extreme, picture for petrol, where prices have fallen by 7.0 per cent over the past two and half years. Yet 59 per cent of respondents in the Essential Research survey indicated that they were paying more for petrol, and only 8 per cent said they were paying less.

Interestingly, in all 10 categories covered in the poll, a significant majority of consumers indicated that they were a little or a lot more for the item in question, even when prices had fallen.

Part of the question of “paying more or paying less” may be linked to changes in spending patterns – medial and dental costs might fall, for example, if your health has improved and you are in fact paying less. So too with education if your children have finished school, you will be spending less on schooling. But the critical point is that consumers perceive that the price of everything always goes up, regardless of whether it does or not.

And it should be noted, that even in a climate of record low wages growth, wages have increased by a touch over 5 per cent since the end of 2014, which is a little above the overall rate of inflation and it indicates that household purchasing power has actually improved over that time.
All of which goes to show that perceptions can and often do overwhelm facts.

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Why the RBA is wrong, wrong, wrong

Tue, 14 Nov 2017

This article first appeared on the Yahoo 7 Finance website at this link: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/2024247-032933611.html 

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Why the RBA is wrong, wrong, wrong

The latest Statement on Monetary Policy has confirmed the failure of the Reserve Bank of Australia to implement monetary policy settings that are consistent with its inflation target and objective of full employment.

It used to be the case that the RBA could never have a medium term forecast for inflation other than 2.5 per cent – the middle of its target range. The thinking was that if the RBA had a forecast an inflation rate of say, 1.5 or 3.5 per cent, that was based on current policy settings, it would adjust interest rates to ensure inflation would not reach those levels, and instead would return to the middle of the target.

The middle of the target range is an important goal for policy because it means the risks to the forecast are symmetrical. A forecast of, say 2 per cent, means that a 0.5 percentage point error could see inflation fall to a troublesome 1.5 per cent as much as it could rise to a perfectly acceptable 2.5 per cent, while a forecast of 2.5 per cent that turns out to be wrong by 0.5 per cent would still mean the RBA meets its target.

And even if the 2.5 per cent forecast turns out to be wrong as economic events unfold in ways not fully anticipated, it would adjust policy again to keep the focus on the 2.5 per cent. The RBA did this well until the global crisis came along and changed the growth, wage, inflation dynamics.

Which is where the recent RBA policy settings have been so wrong.

It has been well over a year since the last interest rate cut.

Getting out of property and into stocks?

Thu, 09 Nov 2017

Getting out of property and into stocks

That seems to be a theme developing in the Australian market at the moment, with further evidence of a cooling in the housing market and a coincident lift in the value of the ASX hinting that those with money to invest are avoiding the ultra-expensive, low yielding housing market and instead are looking to the stock market for opportunities.

The Australia stock market is moving higher to the point where the ASX200 index is poised to break above 6,000 points for the first time since 2008. The past decade has been a rocky one for the Australian stock market. There has been the GFC, a commodity price boom and bust, speculators have jumped into and out of bank stocks based on extreme calls on the housing market and many local firms have been dealing with an unrelenting threat from foreign competition.

Some of these issues remain, but a combination of factors appear to be at play in the new found interest in the share market.