Australian Retail Sales Unchanged in September

By James Glynn Features Dow Jones Newswires

Australian retail sales were flat in September from a month earlier, disappointing economists who had expected a 0.4% rise.

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It marks the third consecutive weaker-than-expected outcome in a row, fueling concerns around the contribution of consumer spending to GDP in the third quarter.

The biggest falls in September were in the household goods and clothing categories, while food sales and restaurant sales improved along with department store sales, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Friday.

Retails sales rose by 0.1% in the third quarter from the second quarter, the ABS added.

Sales for August were revised up slightly to a fall of 0.5% from a 0.6% decline when the figures were first released. Still, the July result was pushed back to a 0.3% fall compared to an originally reported 0.2% decline.

Retail sales have been sharply weaker in recent months, prompting fears that rising household debt levels and a long period of flat wages growth have resulted in consumers hitting a wall.

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The slowdown has coincided with big rises in utility costs, with some economists expecting spending will add little to GDP growth in the third quarter.

Still, the jobs market has been strong, providing consumers with more certainty around their finances.

For the Reserve Bank of Australia, it means interest rates will remain on hold for longer. Markets are currently betting the next move in interest rates will be up in late 2018.

A policy meeting on Tuesday is expected to see interest rates held at a record-low 1.5% for the fifteenth month in a row.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 02, 2017 20:51 ET (00:51 GMT)