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Highs & lows of petrol across AustraliaWeekly petrol prices; Construction; Resources outlook
Petrol: According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol fell by 0.6 cents to 138.9 cents a litre in the past week.
Highs and lows: Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory had the highest regional pump price for petrol last week at 185.1 cents a litre. The lowest regional price could be found in Bendigo, Victoria at 130.9 cent a litre.
Construction activity: The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Construction index rose from 56.0 to 57.2 in March.
Resources: The Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has forecast that resources and energy export earnings will reach record highs in 2017/18, increasing by $21 billion to $230 billion.
 The petrol figures have implications for retailers, especially petrol marketing groups. The Performance of Construction index is a guide to activity levels for builders, construction companies and building material suppliers. What does it all mean?
Six months ago the cost of sourcing petrol from Singapore was equivalent to 57 cents a litre in Australian currency. Today it is closer to 65 cents a litre. (Australia imports around 20 per cent of its petrol needs, especially from Asia). As a result the Australia national average pump price has also lifted by around 8 cents a litre. The cost to the household budget is around $13 a month – not huge, but then again not insubstantial.
Motorists may be unhappy at how much they are paying at the petrol pump, but some are faring a lot better than others. Across regions, Bendigo motorists are faring the best, paying 130.9 cents a litre for petrol. Tweed Heads and Cairns motorists also can feel that they are doing well. But at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, petrol averaged 185.1 cents a litre last week while Alice Springs motorists paid 178.5 cents a litre. While a key factor is transport costs, Karratha in Western Australia is currently faring much better at 153.8 cents a litre.
Global oil producers have been successful in constraining production and thus pushing up the oil price. Discipline by OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers has been maintained. At the same time, solid global economies have resulted in consumers and businesses buying more oil products. Unless the US-China trade dispute widens, oil prices are likely to hold at their recent, more-lofty, levels.
Given that filling up the car with petrol is the single biggest weekly expense for most families, higher pump prices have potential to retrain discretionary consumer spending.
The latest reading on activity in the construction sector supports results from other business surveys. In short, business conditions are exceedingly healthy. The good news in the construction sector is that while home construction is showing signs of peaking, infrastructure projects are serving to support commercial and engineering construction activity.
What do the figures show? Performance of Construction
The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Construction index rose from 56.0 to 57.2 in March. Housing activity fell by 9.2 points to 52.6 and apartments fell by 7 points to 49.9. But commercial activity rose 7.3 points to 65.0 and engineering rose 4 points to 58.5.
While selling prices rose 5.1 points to 57.8, wages fell 2.1 points to 62.0 and input prices fell 1.1 points to 75.9.  Petrol prices
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol fell by 0.6 cents to 138.9 cents a litre in the past week.
The metropolitan petrol price fell by 1.0 cent to 139.0 cents per litre and the regional price increased by 0.4 cents to 138.7 cents per litre.  Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (up by 6.9 cents to 134.3 c/l), Melbourne (down by 5.3 cents to 141.1 c/l), Brisbane (down by 4.2 cents to 142.8 c/l), Adelaide (down by 9.0 cents to 134.0 c/l), Perth (up by 1.8 cents to 137.8 c/l), Darwin (down by 0.1 cents to 148.3 c/l), Canberra (unchanged at 148.0 c/l) and Hobart (up by 1.3 cents to 147.3c/l).
The national average Australian price of diesel petrol rose by 1.1 cents to 139.9 cents per litre. The metropolitan price rose by 1.1 cents to 140.4 c/l and the regional average price rose by 1.1 cents to 139.5 c/l.
Today, the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at 128.1 cents a litre, up by 0.2 cents over the week. The terminal gate diesel price stands at 130.1 cents a litre, up by 1.2 cents over the past week.
Last week the key Singapore gasoline price fell by US$1.85 or 2.3 per cent to US$79.20 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price last week fell from 2½ year highs, dropping by $2.58 or 2.4 per cent to $103.17 a barrel or 64.88 cents a litre.
MotorMouth records the following average retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 147.4c; Melbourne 138.3c; Brisbane 140.2c; Adelaide 129.6c; Perth 128.3c; Canberra 148.1c; Darwin 148.4c; Hobart 147.9c. Resources forecasts
The Federal Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has forecast that resources and energy exports will increase by 12.5 per cent in 2017/18 (real +10.3 per cent) and by 0.3 per cent in 2018/19 (real -2.0 per cent).
The latest projections note: “Commodity prices are projected to decline from 2018/19, with falls in iron ore and metallurgical coal prices having the largest impact on projected real export earnings. Australia’s resources and energy export earnings are projected to level out at $213-216 billion from 2019/20 onwards.”  Coal prices are tipped to ease over the coming year. The metallurgical coal spot price is forecast to ease from US$235 a tonne to US$157 a tonne over the coming year with thermal coal prices down from US$103 to US$88 and iron ore down from US$68 a tonne to US$51 a tonne. 
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 Australian Industry Group (AiG) releases the Performance of Construction Index (PCI) each month. The PCI is useful not just in showing how the sector is performing but also in providing some sense about where the sector is heading. The key ‘forward looking’ components are orders and employment. 
What are the implications for interest rates and investors?
Petrol prices are expected to remain near current levels in the short-term, potentially constraining consumer spending, especially on discretionary areas like cafes and restaurants.
CommSec expects official interest rates to be stable until late 2018. 
Published by Craig James, Chief Economist, CommSec