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Australian dollar moves slightly lower

THE Australian dollar is slightly lower as currency markets were relatively stable overnight.

At 0700 AEST on Tuesday, the local unit was trading at 75.83 US cents, down from 76.00 cents on Monday.

Westpac senior market strategist Imre Speizer said US stock futures swapped between small gains and small losses due to its equity and bond markets being closed for the US Labour Day holiday and amid news of an oil agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Global foreign exchange and interest rate markets were relatively stable last night, Mr Speizer said.

The local currency continues to trade within a narrow range ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australias monetary policy meeting which will be governor Glenn Stevens last as the central banks boss.

The RBA is expected to keep the cash rate steady at 1.5 per cent with much of the focus to be on the central banks statement and for any commentary around the strength of the Australian dollar.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.83 US cents, from 76.00 cents on Monday

* 78.42 Japanese yen, from 78.62 yen

* 68.03 euro cents, from 67.99 euro cents

* 103.79 New Zealand cents, from 103.71 NZ cents

* 57.00 British pence, from 57.10 pence

(*Currency closes taken at 1700 AEST previous local session)

Source: IRESS

Australias 1960 shopping list

THE 1960s were a simpler time.

Shoppers would pop down to the corner store for a pound of mutton, a girdle and some indigestion powder, and as far as the Australian Bureau of Statistics was concerned, beer only came in two varieties bottled or draught.

This year marks nearly six decades since the ABS released the first edition of the consumer price index (CPI), an ongoing measure of the prices of a selected basket of goods and services used to calculate the change in cost of living.

As the composition of Australias economy evolves and consumer habits change over time, the basket of goods is updated, with some things removed and others added in. The last major review of the CPI took place in 2010, but the ABS says there are regular reviews in which minor changes made to reflect changes in the consumer economy.

Recently, the UKs statistics agency sparked headlines when it dropped nightclub entry fees from its CPI basket, reflecting a decline in Britains once-vibrant clubbing scene.

Also removed were CD-ROMs and rewriteable DVDs, replaced with computer game downloads via online stores such as Steam. Womens leggings, nail polish, lemons and cream liqueur were also added to the UKs inflation basket for 2016.

Australias CPI was introduced as a replacement to the Interim Retail Price Index.

Among the key changes to the CPI from its predecessor were the inclusion of home ownership via the price of a new house, rates, charges and maintenance costs. State housing payments were also added in, as were household appliances such as refrigerators, private motoring and beer and other additional items.

Looking back at some of the items in Australias national shopping basket 57 years ago compared with today shows how much more complex society has become.

At just three pages, the 1960 list encompasses all of the broad categories but is also oddly specific: mutton and lamb, befitting their distinct place on the kitchen table, each got a separate entry, broken out into leg, forequarter, loin chop and loin leg. Today, the ABS only lists lamb and goat although that could change if Prince Charles Mutton Renaissance Campaign ever gains traction.

The 1960 list also includes staples like bread, flour, flaked oats, canned spaghetti and honey while clothing items that are less popular today include raincoats and overalls. There were three types of milk on the list, but rather than the endless selection youll find in Australian stores in 2017 (almond, coconut, camel, rice etc), the options then were fresh, powdered and condensed.

TV sets, radio sets and radio valves got their own separate entries under household appliances, alongside electric globes, irons, toasters, refrigerators and washing machines.

Today, audio, visual and computing equipment gets its own entire subcategory under recreation and culture, containing TV sets, video recorders, DVD players, home theatre systems, radios, CD players, portable sound and vision devices, e-book readers, cameras, optical instruments, desktop and laptop computers, printers and calculators.

Other additions to our national spending notably absent in the 1960 CPI include pets, pet products and veterinary services, school and childcare fees, restaurant meals, takeaway and fast food.

And in the days before cheap flights to Bali, family holidays consisted of a trip to the local beach. Today, the ABS tracks prices for domestic and international holiday travel and accommodation also absent from the 1960 CPI.

The ABS doesnt, and never has, revealed specific brands or products used in its basket, however. The first reason is that the CPI data has an impact on financial markets, and that disclosing the granular details of the basket could encourage unintended stockmarket speculation, a spokesman said.

A second key reason is that we place high importance on the privacy of the businesses who provide their sales data to us. We dont want their willingness to support the ABS to have the side-effect of allowing their competitors to undermine them.

Respecting the privacy of people and organisations which provide information to us is such an important part of the ABS reputation, and our ongoing ability to provide quality insights to the nation.