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Consumers Price Index - June 1999 quarter

Consumer Prices Rise in June Quarter

The Consumers Price Index rose by 0.2 per cent in the June 1999 quarter, said Government Statistician Len Cook.

In the previous two quarters, the index fell by 0.3 per cent in March, and by 0.8 per cent in December 1998. Compared with a year earlier, consumer prices were 0.4 per cent lower in the June 1999 quarter. This is the second successive annual fall and the largest decrease since the December 1933 quarter when the index fell by 0.7 per cent from a year earlier.

Excluding credit services, consumer prices rose by 0.5 per cent in the June 1999 quarter. Compared to the June 1998 quarter they were 1.2 per cent higher.

The biggest contributor to the increase in prices this quarter was driver licensing fees, followed closely by a rise in electricity prices. Other main contributors to the increase were stationery supplies and domestic air fares. The largest price falls in the June 1999 quarter came from used cars and mortgage interest.

The household operation index recorded a price increase of 1.1 per cent on the March 1999 quarter, driven by the 3.8 per cent rise in electricity prices. In contrast, credit services were responsible for pushing the index down. The driving force in this group, which fell 2.7 per cent in the June 1999 quarter, was the 2.3 per cent fall in mortgage interest over the same period.

The housing index rose by 0.4 per cent in the June 1999 quarter with home ownership being the main contributor to this increase. The largest upward contributions were recorded for expenses of dwelling purchase and dwelling maintenance services.

Lower food prices contributed significantly to the overall movement of the index. Prices fell by 0.6 per cent from the March to June 1999 quarters. Fruit and vegetable prices fell by 2.8 per cent and grocery food prices by 0.7 per cent from the previous quarter.

Increased prices for stationery supplies pushed up the recreation and education group which increased by 1.2 per cent in the June 1999 quarter. In the September 1999 quarter a revised index will be introduced. The new index base period will be the June 1999 quarter.

The revision includes the updating of the base weights of the index to reflect the changing spending patterns of consumers. These weights indicate the relative importance of items purchased by households.

The revision also includes the removal of interest rates and section prices from the Consumers Price Index. A separate index will be published which includes interest rates. The surveys which collect prices for the index have also been reviewed and a number of them have been updated.

These reviews included the changing of outlets surveyed and commodities priced as well as the method by which the data is collected.

Len Cook GOVERNMENT STATISTICIAN 15 July 1999


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