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Australia’s Economy Holds Plenty of Pitfalls for Election Winner

Much of this is beyond the control of any government, but the winners will still be under pressure to ease the cost-of-living crisis without stimulating yet more inflation.

They will also take the blame should rates have to rise so fast that they tip the economy into recession, even if that is really the responsibility of the independent central bank.So far, the centre-left Labor opposition looks set to end the nine-year reign of the conservative Liberal National government at the May 21 vote, although a hung parliament also looms as a possibility.

Labor has pledged to tackle the rising cost of living by supporting commensurate wages gains, putting pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison who could only promise that wages would eventually increase as unemployment came down.His argument took a body blow this week when official wage data showed annual growth of just 2.4%, less than half the 5.1% pace of consumer price inflation.Labor jumped on the figures to claim ordinary Australians were going backwards in real wages, and that at a time when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) was raising borrowing costs.

The RBA underlined its determination to beat inflation by lifting interest rates at a May 3 policy meeting, the first hike in 11 years and a rare step during an election campaign.Financial markets are wagering it will have to hike every month for the rest of the year, taking rates from the current lowly 0.35% to as high as 2.75% by Christmas.If right, that would be one of the most drastic tightening campaigns in modern history and a major burden for households that owe a record A$2 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in mortgage debt.

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