Australian Retail Sales Rebound Sharply in April

By James Glynn Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australian retail sales rebounded sharply in April, led by strong demand for food sold by cafes and restaurants as well as for products in department stores.

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It comes after two soft months for retail sales, partly driven by a cyclone that left a trail of damage across eastern Australia.

The result will ease concerns that consumers are backing away from spending, constrained by record debts, anxiety that house prices may fall, soft wages growth and a wobbly job market.

Retail sales rose by 1.0% in April from a month earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday. That was well above the 0.3% rise expected by economists.

The data showed that retail sales fell by 0.2% in March and were flat in February.

Australian household debt has soared to record levels as house prices have climbed over recent years. As a result, retailers are experiencing a slowdown as spending has contracted, with business insolvencies rising over recent months.

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Some economists expect first quarter GDP growth data next week to show economic activity was flat in the opening months of the year.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has said it has little scope to lower interest rates further to stoke demand, fearing more cuts will only worsen the situation as house price gains reaccelerate.

-Write to James Glynn at james.glynn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 31, 2017 21:51 ET (01:51 GMT)