Prices on the rise
After easing in the lead up to Christmas, prices are expected to begin rising this year with 31 per cent of businesses intending to lift their selling prices in the first quarter, while just four per cent will discount, according to Dun & Bradstreet’s monthly Business Expectations Survey.
Dun & Bradstreet’s monthly Business Expectations Survey shows the Selling Price Index for the March quarter lifting to 26.3 points, up from 17.5 points last quarter, and 19.5 points last year, to reach its highest level since the third quarter of 2009.
The index measures the difference between the percentage of businesses expecting to increase prices minus the percentage intending to decrease prices.
The lift in the Selling Price Index continues a steady trend that commenced during the middle of last year and can be tied to a similar movement in the level of the Australian dollar, suggesting that the weakening currency is leading to higher input costs for many local firms.
Indicative of this effect, 40 per cent of wholesalers are planning to raise their prices in the coming three months, while just one per cent will reduce.
Gareth Jones, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet in Australia & New Zealand, says the falling currency is having a mixed impact on the business sector.
“The double edge nature of currency movements is being borne out in the Business Expectations Survey, with mixed views from businesses on its effect,” Jones said.
“While there has undoubtedly been a benefit for sections of the economy, such as manufacturers, the weaker dollar has introduced new cost pressures for businesses and industries that are reliant on imported goods.
“To cover these costs, many operations will be forced to lift their own prices, which will in turn flow through to other businesses and consumers alike.”
D&B’s survey reveals the significance of the level of the dollar on businesses, with 21 per cent listing it has the issue that will influence their operations the most, with ‘cash flow’ the only more pressing concern (26 per cent) for their operations in Q1 2015, while the percentage of businesses that is more optimistic about growth this year compared to last, has fallen from 74 per cent to 65 per cent month on month, and from 68 per cent year on year.
“While expectations for future profits have cooled in light of recent negative news on the economy, there are also positives to be found in the gradually improving picture for business spending and hiring, which fits with recent assessments from the RBA and Treasury,” Jones said.
“Low borrowing rates, cheaper fuel, and an improving US economy, meanwhile, provide additional cause for optimism.”