Data Vault – A weekly wrap up of key economic releases in Australia and beyond

January 23, 2012

Economic Data Vault

January 23rd 2012

Welcome to our weekly Data Vault. The Vault is put together by our team here at Lighthouse and we offer it as a resource to readers and clients who want to quickly get a feel for the data over the week without having to read a full blog or economic report. It will be released each Monday morning and while our primary focus is Australia we also include our key overseas indicators.

Australian Data

TD Inflation Index

The TD Inflation index posted its biggest monthly gain since March 2011, rising by 0.5% in December after it fell by 0.1% the previous month however the three-month annualised rate is still rather weak at 1.5% while the annual rate edged up from 2.1% to 2.4%. The trimmed mean also rose in  December by a less robust 0.3% after it fell 0.2% in November with the 3 month annualised rate equally soft at 1.7% while the annual rate now sits at 2.2%. Looking through the volatility the key is that both readings are still in the bottom half of the RBA’s target band

Housing Finance

We saw a rather robust increase in housing finance in November in comparison to the soft outcomes over the course of 2011 which coincided with the first of the RBA’s 2 rate cuts. Owner occupier loans grew by 1.4% over the month while the value of owner occupier loan rose 2.2%. More importantly total loans ex-refinancing rose by 2.2%. Overall however housing finance still remains soft outside of NSW where first home buyers are rushing to get in before the winding back of the stamp duty concession which is only acting to bring forward demand.

ANZ Job Advertisements

The softness in the labour market appears set to continue with the ANZ job ads report showing yet another steady decline in the number of job ads. Total jobs ads fell by 0.9% in December, driven by a 1.1% fall in the number of internet jobs ads while newspaper ads rose 3.5%. Total and internet job ads are both now in negative territory on an annual basis with their annual rates at -2.6% and 2.6% repectively while newspaper ads, despite the bounce in December, were still down 9.3% over the past 12 months.

Westpac Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence edged higher in January however the level of confidence is still quite subdued following two rate cuts from the RBA. Overall confidence rose 2.4% after it fell by 8.3% in December with pesimists still outweighing optimists. The main driver was improved confidence in the near term outlook for the economy with expectations for the next 12 months up 9.5% however consumers perceptions of their own financed remain subded with family finances over the year ahead up 0.7% while compared to 12 months ago the index fell 2.5%

Motor Vehicle Sales

Motor vehiicle sales were dissapointing in December after recovering nicely from the supply disruptions earlier in the year with total sales falling by 2.9% over the month to be down 3% over the year. A sharp 12.4% fall in the ‘other’ vehicle category which includes commercial vehicles accounted for 84% of the decline ans are now down 13.3% over the year while SUrV sales were down 1.7% accounting for the rest of the fall however SUV sales are still up 24.8% over the year. Passsenger sales were little changed to be down 9.3% year on year


Employment data disappointed in December with 29.3k jobs lost over the month meaning there was no growth in jobs at all in 2011 making it the worst year for jobs growth since the early 1990’s. The full time part time split saw 24.5k additional full time jobs while part time jobs fell by 53.7k.  The unemployment rate remained unchanged from a revised 5.2% after the participation rate fell sharply from 65.5% to 65.2%.

Import/Export Prices

After risng a solid 4% in Q3, export prices fell 1.5% in the 4th quarter, which was a little less than the 2% that was expected however it is likely that they have further to fall with spot prices for many commodities currently trading below quarterly contract prices, so as these quarterly contracts reset the index is likely to fall further. Meanwhile import prices rose 2.5%, thei biggest gain since Q4 2008 when the AUD tumbled in the wake of the Lehaman brother collapse, after they were unchanged in Q3

Offshore Data

China Activity Indicators

China’s key economic activity indicators were largely steady in December after slowing over the past few months. The annual rate of growth in industrial production was 13.9% which was down from 14% the previous month but better than the 13.8% that was expected. Retail sales rose 18.1% which was both better than the 17.3% last month and the 17.2% that was expected while fixed asset investment slowed more than expected from an annual rate of 24.5% to 23.8%, its lowest level since the first quarter of 2007, against expectations of 24.1%

China GDP

China’s economic growth continues to slow, albeit a little slower than expected with the economy growing by 2% over the economy which saw the annual pace of growth slow to 8.9% from 9.1% against expectation of 8.7%. The reading of 8.9% however is the weakest reading in 10 quarters and the slowest pace, outside of the slowdown experienced during the GFC, since 2003. While the outcome is a touch stronger than expected the correlation with the annual pace of GDP and the leading index suggest there will be further weakness ahead.

UK Inflation

Inflation in the UK remains elevated with the consumer price index rising by 0.4% in December which was in line with what the market was expecting with the annual rate easing from 4.8% to 4.2% while the retail price index also rose 0.4% whihc was a touch more than expected with the annual pace easing from 5.2% to 4.8%. While inflation remains elevated at present there are signs that we may have seen the peak in the annual pace of both series with inflation expected to slow over the coming months.

EU Inflation

Inflation across Europe moderated more than expecting with the annual pace slowing from 3% to 2.7% in December after prices rose 0.3% over the month against expectations of a 0.4% increase. The core inflation reading remains much softer with the annual rate remaining unchanged at 1.6%. Energy costs continue to apply the most upward pressure to overall inflation, rising at an annual rate of 9.7% while housing costs, up 4.9% and transport costs, up 4.3% are the next biggest contributors.

EU ZEW Survey

After sinking to near GFC lows over the past few months, the ZEW centres economic growth expectation index improved substantially in January with the index for Europe as a whole rising from -54.1 to -32.5. Indices were up for all the major countries with Germany rising from -53.8 to -21.6, France’s rose from -51.7 to -30.1 while even Italy posted a solid improvement from -56.3 to -37. While the noticeable improvement is encouraging it still suggest substantial weakness in growth over the quarters ahead as the Euro crisis rolls on and Austerity bites.

US Fed regional surveys

We got two regional Fed surveys this week with the Empire manufacturing index continuing its recent uptrend, climbing from a negatively revised 8.19 in December to 13.48 in January, ahead of expectations of a rise to 13.48. The index is now at its hgihest level since April last year. The Philadelphia fed’s index wasn’t quite as positive edging up from a revised 6.8 in December to 7.3 in January after it was expected to rise to 10.3.

US Inflation

Headline inflation readings in the US continue to ease with the latest figures showing producer prices fell 0.1% in December, which was their second fall in the past 3 months with the annual rate easing to 4.8% while consumer prices were unchanged for the second straight month and are down over the past three months with the annual rate easing to 3%. However both core readings of inflation continue to edge higher with the annual pace of PPI ex-food and energy now at 3% while CPI remained at 2.2%, the highest since October 2008.

US Industrial Production

After falling for the first time in 7 months in November, US industrial production bounced back in December, rising by 0.4% over the month. Manufacturing, the biggest component, drove the gains, rising 0.9% over the month while Utilities fell 2.7/5 while mining production rose 0.3% over the month. Despite the increase the annual pace of growth remains in a steady downtrend with the recovery in produciton since the GFC still having minimal impact on employment in the manufacturing sector

US Housing Market

Housing data over the week was mixed with the NAHB home buildiers sentiment index rising from 21 to 25,  its highest level since mid 2007 however still remains well below its long run average of 49 and its pre mid 2006 average of 56. Housing starts and building permits dissapointed, falling by 4.1% and 0.1% respectively while exitsting home sales rose 5% which was just short of expectations and was also short of the level suggested by the pending home sales index.

Yours in data – The Lighthouse Team.

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