Inflation gauge steady as experts tip rate to remain on hold: Midday Roundup

A private gauge of inflation rose 0.1% during February after a 0.2% increase in January, as the cost of fruit and vegetables continued to rise.

According to the TD Securities-Melbourne Institute inflation gauge, prices grew 0.1% in February, while in the previous 12 months, inflation had risen just 2%. That is at the lower-end of the RBA’s 2-3% target band.

Fruit and vegetables were up 1.8% in February, while automotive fuels rose 0.5%. However, prices for holiday travel and accommodation, along with insurance and financial services products, all fell.

TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific Research Annette Beacher said the results add to existing evidence the RBA will keep rates on hold at its March meeting tomorrow.

“For the RBA Board meeting tomorrow, members will note that there has been next to no evidence of a material softening of domestic demand in the last four weeks,” she said.

“The easiest decision is to leave the cash rate at neutral for another month, and indeed it is increasingly likely to remain the case for several months to come.”

Jobs ads reach 27-month high

The total number of job ads continued to rise in February, now at their highest point since November 2008.

According to the latest figures from ANZ, job ads on the internet and in major metropolitan newspapers rose by 3.3% in February, seasonally adjusted.

Total advertisements were up 3.6% compared to the previous corresponding period.

The most recent rise was due to a 3.8% increase in internet job ads, although these are 4.9% lower than in February 2011. Newspaper job ads are down 22.3% from the same time last year.

ANZ economist Warren Hogan said in a statement he expects hiring intentions to increase during 2012.

Company profits fall in December quarter

Corporate gross profits fell in the December quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Gross profits in the December quarter fell by a seasonally adjusted 6.5%, while gross profits increased by a seasonally adjusted 2.2%.

Business inventories increased by 1.4%, after an upwardly revised 0.7% decline in the previous quarter.

Shares flat after weak US leads

The Australian sharemarket has opened lower this morning after weak leads from both American and European stock markets late last week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 15.7 points or 0.4% to 4257.4 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar remained at $US1.07c.

In the United States last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.7 points to 12,977.7.

SingTel announces corporate restructure

Optus parent company SingTel has announced a restructure that will see the company split into three separate groups.

Optus will come under a new group consumer division led by Optus chief Paul O’Sullivan.

The other two units will be a digital life unit and an ICT unit.

“We now see some of the largest and most exciting opportunities that have ever existed in this industry,” SingTel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong said in a statement.

“The changes to how we organise ourselves are necessary in order to align our people and resources to sharpen our focus and take advantage of these opportunities.”

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