Australia said Tuesday inflation rose a weaker-than-expected 0.1 percent in the March quarter, fuelling speculation the central bank will cut interest rates next week.
The Consumer Price Index had been expected to rise 0.6 percent for the quarter and analysts said the disappointing figure essentially locked in a stimulatory rate cut when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meets on May 1.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed the CPI climbed 1.6 percent through the year to the March quarter, well down on the 3.1 percent rise recorded through the year to December.
The Australian dollar dropped almost half a cent on the news, and was trading at 102.72 US cents.
Analysts said there was little inflationary pressure on the economy at the moment, leaving the RBA open to cut rates at its next monthly meeting.
The bank, which last eased rates in late 2011, kept them on hold at 4.25 percent this month but indicated it would be prepared to announce a cut if inflation weakened.
"Really there is no sign at all of the inflation bogeyman," Westpac senior currency strategist Sean Callow told Dow Jones Newswires.
The data comes as a new report warned the gap between Australia's turbo-powered mining sector and the rest of the economy was widening.
"Australia has a two-speed economy," consultants Deloitte Access Economics said in a report, which claimed growth would be spurred by business investment as firms, particularly in the resources sector, attempted to boost production.
Though Australian families were saving rather than spending, retail and housing construction were underperforming and government spending was weakening, the report said the economy would continue to boom.
"It may be a lopsided period in Australian growth, but growth it will be. And the split in that growth is widening further," it said.
"The two-speed split in Australia's economy, which was already large, is getting larger still."
The report said inflation was looking less dangerous in the short term because the bullish Aussie dollar was dampening import prices, demand was weak outside the resources sector, and wage inflation remained moderate.
"But this is more a pause than a sea change -- the (Australian dollar) won't keep rising, demand will remain strong (including a modest lift in retail sales), and wage gains may resume their rise as jobs recover and (baby) boomers retire," it said.