Australian retail figures back upturn

04 December 2009

SYDNEY: Australia is strengthening its position as one of the world's few economies to have escaped the full onslaught of the global recession, having reported a 0.3% rise in retail spending during October.

The news comes on the back of consecutive monthly increases in the nation's main interest rate by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, department stores and cafés were the leading beneficiaries, reporting month-on-month increases of 1.9% and 1.1% respectively. Around the country, the Northern Territory recorded the largest single increase in sales spending of 1.8%.

Tasmania registered an uptick of 1.5%, New South Wales 1.2% and Western Australia a more modest  0.9%. Victoria was the one state to experience a month-on-month dip, with spending shrinking 0.9% compared to September.

“Retail sales were a little weaker than I was forecasting, but I don't think it changes the picture,” said ICAP economist, Adam Carr. “Income growth is solid and consumer confidence is high. When you look at it, there are very few headwinds to the consumer.”

Australia has largely managed to avoid the global recession, having only witnessed a 0.5% contraction in its economy during the final quarter of 2008. It was also the only nation in the developed world to expand during the first and second quarters of 2009, registering growth of 0.4% and 0.6% respectively.

Reflecting the increasing pick-up in the economy, the RBA raised interest rates for the second month in a row at the start of November, by 25 percentage points to 3.50%.

Data sourced from the Sydney Morning Herald and BBC Online; additional information by WARC staff