Australian house prices suffered their first annual fall since early 2009 last quarter while approvals to build new homes slid to the lowest in two years, softness that would seem to lean against a rise in interest rates later on Tuesday.The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announces its monthly rates decision at 0430 GMT and it could be a close call as policy makers weigh worryingly high inflation against a patchy domestic economy and much uncertainty abroad.“Today’s numbers are just more of the relentless tide of weaker signals coming through in recent months,” said Brian Redican, a senior economist at Macquarie. “The RBA may still be close to pulling the trigger on rates, but we just don’t think they should.”Rates have been on hold at 4.75 per cent since the last hike in November 2010 and most analysts assume they will stay there this month, largely due to the cloudy global outlook.A Reuters poll of 20 economists found 16 expected no change, with four tipping a rise to 5 per cent . Futures markets also imply only a 14 per cent probability of a hike today, and not much more of a chance by October.Until recently investors had seen more risk of a cut than a rise, but a surprisingly high reading for core inflation in the second quarter has put a tightening back on the agenda.Underlying inflation is running at an annualised pace of around 3.6 per cent, well above the central bank’s long term target of 2 to 3 per cent. That will bring back memories of 2007/2008 when price pressures accelerated far faster than policy makers expected and argues for a near-term hike.Australia’s terms of trade are also at record highs, thanks in large part to Chinese demand for its commodities, and mining investment is enjoying a boom of truly epic proportions. Figures from Deloitte last week showed investment across the economy under way or in the pipeline had reached A$832 billion, a staggering amount for an economy with an annual output of A$1.3 trillion.On the other hand, consumers have been choosing to save rather than spend, the housing market has turned soggy and a high local dollar is hurting manufacturing and tourism.on Tuesday’s data underlined the softness in housing with house prices in Australia’s eight capital cities falling 1.9 per cent in the year to June, a long way from the 19 per cent growth seen early in 2010.
From / Gulf today