The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 3.5% in the 12 months to March primarily due to a rise in Housing (+5.2%), Food and non-alcoholic beverages (+3.5%) and Transport (+4.5%).

The CPI rose 3.5 per cent in the 12 months to March 2024.

Michelle Marquardt, ABS head of prices statistics, said: “Annually, the CPI rose 3.5 per cent to the March 2024 quarter. While prices continued to rise for most goods and services, annual CPI inflation was down from 4.1 per cent last quarter and has fallen from the peak of 7.8 per cent in December 2022.”

New dwellings and rents

New dwelling prices rose 5.1% in the 12 months to March. Prices have continued to rise by around 5% annually over the past six months. The increase in new dwelling prices reflects builders continuing to pass on higher costs for labour and materials.

Rents increased 7.7% in the 12 months to March, which continues to reflect strong demand for rental properties and tight rental markets.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages

Food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose 3.5% in the 12 months to March, down slightly from 3.6% in February.

The main contributors were Meals out and takeaway foods (+5.4%), Bread and cereal products (+7.3%) and Food products n.e.c. (+4.0%). Compared to 12 months ago, prices fell for Meat and seafood (-0.09%) and Fruit and vegetables (-1.2%).

Electricity and Gas

Electricity prices rose 5.2% in the 12 months to March, up from a rise of 0.3% to February. The rise was driven by the unwinding of Energy Bill Relief Fund rebates which have moderated the increase in electricity bills for households following annual price reviews in July 2023.

Gas prices fell 2.9% in the 12 months to March, the third consecutive month of annual deflation and down from the peak of 27.2% to May 2023.

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel prices rose 8.1% in the 12 months to March, up from a rise of 4.1% to February. The rise was driven by higher wholesale fuel prices.

In monthly terms, Automotive fuel prices rose 1.5% in March, the first monthly rise since September 2023.

Inflation is critical in determining the pace and extent of interest rate changes by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Why is the CPI being released monthly now?

The ABS began publishing a new monthly rolling series of CPI as inflation surged in 2022. The more comprehensive quarterly data set considers a broader range of items to calculate CPI.

The next release will be for April 2024 on 29 May 2024.