Economists will certainly need both hands to weigh up the meaning of the latest CPI figures.

With inflation at 0.4% in the December quarter, giving an annual rate of 1.7% – or 0.6 and 2.1% on the underlying rate, it can be viewed either way.

Or in classic economic speak, it will highlight whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty person.

Which really only matters for now if you happen to be a Reserve Bank of Australia director who is meeting to discuss what happens to interest rates next Tuesday.

On the one hand, the figures are in line with expectations and while at the lowest end of the Bank's inflation target of 2 to 3%, nothing to panic about yet.

Or nothing to strongly justify another imminent rate cut.

Better to weigh up the more important jobless figures and Aussie dollar strength. 

On the other hand the CPI numbers confirm just how weak growth is in the economy at the moment so the figures don't rule out the need for another stimulatory rate cut.

(See what I mean?)

Two things of interest buried in the numbers I noted.

Firstly the December quarter number was boosted by holiday travel and a rise in tobacco prices. For the majority who don't smoke, you might not realise there was another hefty increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes. Obviously hefty enough this time to be noted in the CPI.

Among the prices falling were fuel and fruit. On the latter, it obviously did not include avocados.

On the former it confirms evidence in the US last week that the collapse of petrol prices is not translating into a spending boom by consumers.

In the US that would be surprising as they are benefiting from cheap oil at the consumer level. 

Here you wonder how much is being passed on by those greedy oil companies.

Still in both cases it is clear that the catch 22 of the oil price collapse is hitting consumers – that is, any benefit in lower prices at the bowser is being offset by concern about the overall market turmoil caused by lower oil prices.

Confused? So are the economists.