Spending rises but growth steadies in September

Commonwealth Bank media release


  • Economy-wide spending grew in September for the 38th month in a row.
  • South Australia and Tasmania recorded the highest monthly growth rates.
  • Sales grew or stabilised in 13 out of 19 industry sectors.

Economy-wide spending continued to grow in September, although the rate of growth has slowed to a more consistent pace, according to the Commonwealth Bank’s latest Business Sales Indicator (BSI).

In trend terms, the BSI rose 0.3 per cent for the month, down slightly from a 0.4 per cent gain in August and marking the 38th consecutive month of spending growth.

The BSI is a key measure of economy-wide spending, tracking the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank point-of-sale terminals.

The September BSI shows modest growth during the month, with the annual growth rate easing to 8.7 per cent — down from 9.2 per cent in August. However, this is still above the 6.3 per cent long-term average growth rate.

Meanwhile, the more volatile seasonally adjusted measure fell 0.7 per cent in September, after a rise of 0.6 per cent the month before. As a result, the seasonally adjusted annual growth rate eased from 9.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent in September.

Adam Bennett, Executive General Manager Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank, said that while the latest BSI reported slower growth, the majority of sectors experienced sales increases throughout the month.

“In September we saw sales grow at a moderate pace across all but one of the states and territories as well as in the majority of industry sectors. Looking forward, we can anticipate further increases in growth as we transition into the holiday trading period where consumer spending is typically strong.

“For businesses, it’s especially important to start building cash reserves or establishing lines of credit now, so they can take full advantage of growth opportunities in the months ahead,” said Mr Bennett.

Craig James, Chief Economist at the Bank’s broking subsidiary CommSec and author of the BSI report, said that although concerns about the global economy and a weaker share market have had an effect on confidence, conditions remain favourable for spending growth to continue into 2015.

“Fundamentally, the economy is sound, with low interest rates, a more competitive currency and a stable job market.

“Business profitability has improved and, in many industries, forward order books are starting to fill. Job advertisements have been consistently higher and more people are looking for and finding work, which should increase household incomes and flow through to sales,” said Mr James.

Industry Analysis

Service Providers outperform

In 13 out of 19 industry sectors, sales rose or remained stable in trend terms during September, down from 14 in August. For the fourth straight month, the Service Providers sector enjoyed the strongest growth, with spending up 4.3 per cent. Other sectors to record healthy rises included Transportation (up 1.6 per cent), Airlines (up 1.3 per cent) and Miscellaneous Stores (up 0.9 per cent).

In contrast, the Utilities sector fell 1.3 per cent, while Clothing Stores and Automobile/Vehicle rentals each recorded falls of 1 per cent. Nonetheless, annual sales growth remains positive in 16 out of 19 sectors, with five reporting increases of 20 per cent or more over the last year. The Service Providers sector topped the leader board, with a 28.7 per cent lift in sales, followed by Hotels & Motels on 24.4 per cent.

State Analysis

A tale of two territories

September once again saw sales rise across most of the country, with South Australia and Tasmania recording the highest growth rates, both up 0.5 per cent. The Australian Capital Territory also bounced back from recent declines, after sales rose 0.3 per cent during September. However, the Northern Territory lost ground to become the only state or territory with falling sales, down 0.3 per cent.

Overall, the national trend remains positive, with the BSI rising for 39 straight months in Queensland, 31 months in Tasmania, 25 months in NSW, and 24 months in South Australia. As a result, every state and territory except the Australian Capital Territory has seen sales rise over the last 12 months, with South Australia recording a chart-topping 16.2 per cent rise.


About the Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator

  • The Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator (BSI) is calculated by tracking the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank merchant facilities throughout Australia.
  • The BSI has been devised to provide a monthly assessment of spending trends in the Australian economy (covering 19 industry sectors and all Australian states and territories) and is available to the public on the Bank’s website and to the media on or around the 20th day of each month.
  • Credit and debit card transactions can be volatile on a month-to-month basis, affected by seasonal and irregular factors. The BSI is tracked in seasonally adjusted and trend terms. The overall BSI is measured in both seasonally adjusted and trend terms while state/territory and industry data are measured using the less volatile ‘trend’ approach. The seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of the BSI results are derived via the SEASABS statistical program from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • The monthly BSI has been devised to provide a more timely assessment of spending trends in the economy. The main monthly indicator of spending in the economy is the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Retail Trade release. However these statistics only cover spending at retail establishments, and exclude spending at a raft of other businesses.
  • The BSI includes transactions made at traditional retail establishments such as supermarkets, clothing stores, cafes and restaurants and as such is more comparable to the ABS Household Final Consumption Expenditure, which is released on a quarterly basis. The BSI also covers businesses such as airlines, car dealers and utilities, such as water and electricity companies, as well as motels, business, professional and government services and wholesalers.
  • The BSI includes industry sectors based on the International Merchant Category Code (IMCC) categories. MCC is a four-digit number assigned to a business when the business first starts accepting cards as a form of payment.


Media contact:

Liz Lovett
Commonwealth Bank
T: (02) 9303 1403
E: Elizabeth.Lovett@cba.com.au