Higher petrol prices in focus for householdsWeekly petrol prices, Domestic aviation
Petrol: According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol rose by 0.4 cents last week to 138.0 cents a litre.
Domestic flight capacity at 7-year highs: Over the year to November, the proportion of occupied seats on domestic flights hit a 7-year high of 79.2 per cent. The load factor on the world’s second most travelled air route, Sydney-Melbourne (source: OAG), was near record highs of 84.0 per cent. The petrol figures have implications for retailers, especially petrol marketing groups. Aviation activity data is important for airlines and hotels.
What does it all mean?
The kids return to school next week and we’ll be receiving bills for tuition, stationery and uniforms. Before that we may be hitting the road for the Australia Day weekend – the last extended break before Easter. So movements in petrol prices will be keenly observed by drivers given the impact on household budgets.
In some much-needed good news for beleaguered motorists, global oil prices fell last week for the first time in five weeks. Higher prices due to production curtailments by OPEC and Russia may encourage US shale producers to increase output, thus increasing global crude supply. Over the week Brent crude lost 1.8% to US$68.61 a barrel and the US Nymex price fell by 1.4% to US$63.37 a barrel.
But will this translate into lower Aussie pump prices? Certainly the Aussie dollar is doing its bit, powering above US80 cents, up by 2.8 per cent so far this year, serving to cap Singapore gasoline prices at around $98 a barrel. Prices have been below $100 a barrel for seven consecutive weeks.
Also, retail petrol margins have begun to decline after peaking at a record high 15.96 cents a litre on January 14. Last week the five-week average margin (gap between the pump and terminal gate price) declined to 15 cents a litre – the lowest level in four weeks.
Across capital cities the discounting cycle ended in Brisbane, causing pump prices to lift 20 cents over the week.
Rising Brisbane pump prices have sparked debate between the Queensland Government, motoring body RACQ and price monitoring agency Fueltrac about finding a solution for Queensland’s ‘higher’ fuel prices.
Queensland could take a look at developments in NSW and Western Australia. The NSW government has made it compulsory for retail petrol stations to advise consumers through real-time smart phone apps when prices fluctuate. In Perth, a consistent weekly price cycle operates where motorists know what time of the week prices peak and trough. 
What do the figures show?
Petrol prices
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol rose by 0.4 cents to 138.0 cents a litre in the past week. The metropolitan petrol price rose by 0.6 cents to 137.3 cents per litre and the regional price fell by 0.3 cents to 139.3 cents per litre.
Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (down by 5.7 cents to 137.7 c/l), Melbourne (up by 5.0 cents to 136.5 c/l), Brisbane (up by 3.6 cents to 135.0 c/l), Adelaide (up by 0.3 cents to 137.8 c/l), Perth (unchanged at 137.6 c/l), Darwin (unchanged at 150.4 c/l), Canberra (down by 0.3 cents to 148.4 c/l) and Hobart (unchanged at 146.2 c/l).
The national average Australian price of diesel petrol rose by 0.5 cents to 138.8 cents per litre. The metropolitan price rose by 0.5 cents to 139.4 c/l and the regional average price rose by 0.6 cents to 138.4 c/l.
Today, the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at 123.8 cents a litre, up by 1.0 cent over the week. The terminal gate diesel price stands at 126.5 cents a litre, up by 0.5 cents over the past week.
Last week the key Singapore gasoline price rose by US70 cents or 0.9 per cent to US$78.70 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price last week fell by 78 cents or 0.8 per cent to $98.14 a barrel or 61.72 cents a litre.
MotorMouth records the following average retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 134.2c; Melbourne 148.0; Brisbane 148.9c; Adelaide 129.8c; Perth 127.8c; Canberra 144.9c; Darwin 150.4c; Hobart 146.3c. Domestic airline traffic
According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in November, 5.44 million passengers were carried on RPT (regular public transport) domestic flights, an increase of 3.3 per cent on November 2016. (In smoothed terms, passenger numbers were up 1.7 per cent in the year to November).
Revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) performed were 5.99 billion for the month, up 2.5 per cent compared with November 2016. (Smoothed: up 1.0 per cent).
Capacity, measured by available seat kilometres (ASKs), decreased by 0.8 per cent compared with November 2017 to a total of 7.31 billion. With capacity decreasing and passenger traffic increasing, the industry wide load factor (RPKs/ASKs) increased from 79.3 per cent in November 2016 to 82.0 per cent in November 2017.
The annual average load factor hit a 7-year high of 79.2 per cent in November.
The load factor on the key Sydney-Melbourne route averaged 84.0 per cent in the year to November, down from a record 84.3 per cent in the year to October.
The BITRE reported: “The greatest percentage increase in RPT passenger numbers, compared to November 2016, was on the Brisbane – Proserpine route (up 28.7 per cent). There were large increases on a number of other routes, including Broome – Perth (up 25.2 per cent), Melbourne – Sunshine Coast (up 14.3 per cent) and Darwin – Perth (up 14.1 per cent).
Routes with traffic decreases in November 2017 compared with November 2016 included Hamilton Island – Sydney (down 24.2 per cent), Brisbane – Hamilton Island (down 15.8 per cent), Brisbane – Gladstone (down 14.3 per cent) and Karratha – Perth (down 10.6 per cent).
What is the importance of the economic data?
Weekly figures on petrol prices are compiled by ORIMA Research on behalf of the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP). National average retail prices are calculated as the weighted average of each State/Territory’s metropolitan and non-metropolitan retail petrol prices, with the weights based on the number of registered petrol vehicles in each of these regions. AIP data for retail petrol prices is based on available market data supplied by MotorMouth.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) release data on domestic aviation each month. The data is useful in tracking consumer spending and airline performance. 
What are the implications for interest rates and investors?
Some respite may be on the way for beleaguered Aussie motorists at the fuel pump. Global petrol prices had risen to 3-year highs, but prices fell last week and Australian retail pump margins may have peaked.
Elevated petrol prices continue to pressure Aussie household budgets as we get ready for our national holiday and resume the school run. This perception is feeding into consumer inflation expectations, which are rising. The latest reading on consumer prices is released on Wednesday week (January 31).
The number of Aussie leisure and business travellers flying interstate is increasing. This is a great news for tourism-related industries, such as travel agents, airlines, accommodation and restaurants. The number of travellers is rising but airlines are using up capacity rather than putting on extra flights, thus boosting profitability.
CommSec expects interest rates to be unchanged through until at least December.
Originally published by Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist, CommSec