Australian shares snapped five consecutive sessions of gains on Wednesday, as hotter-than-expected inflation data cemented the case for more interest rate hikes from the central bank.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.3% lower at 7,468.30 after Tuesday’s 0.4% rise. Losses were however capped as heavyweight financials advanced. Data showed the consumer price index surged 1.9% in the December quarter, outpacing market forecasts of 1.6%.
For December, the CPI rose 8.4% compared to the same month a year ago, up from 7.3% in November. The annual rate climbed to 7.8%, from 7.3%, the highest since 1990.
“They (Reserve Bank of Australia) really have no choice but to re-pivot back to a tougher stance to ensure inflation expectations are grounded very quickly,” said Carl Capolingua, a market analyst at ThinkMarkets Australia.
“As a result of today’s inflation data, I would not be surprised to see if the market begins to factor in the slight possibility of a 50-basis point hike at the next RBA meeting on Feb. 7.” Analysts from National Australia Bank, ING and Citi broadly expect a 25-basis point hike next month.
Among sectors, mining slipped 0.9%, with iron ore giants BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group down between 0.2% and 1%.
Energy stocks dipped 1.2%, while gold stocks slumped 2.3%. Shares of Woodside Energy Group fell 1.2%, even as the company posted an 81% jump in quarterly revenue on the back of strong gas prices. Technology stocks fell 1.2%, with Xero Ltd and ASX-listed shares of Block Inc down 2.7% and 2.8%, respectively. Financials added 0.3%, with the so-called “big four” banks trading in positive territory.
“The hotter CPI data will still be seen as net positive for banks as it confirms rates are going to have to rise again,” said Capolingua.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to 11,994.51.
The country’s December-quarter inflation came in below the central bank’s forecast but held near a three-decade high.