Commonwealth Bank media release


  • According to the Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator economy-wide spending was flat in February
  • The February result matches the result in January and shows a slowdown in spending since September 2015
  • All states and territories posted sales above a year ago

Economy-wide spending in February remained unchanged from the previous month, indicating a clear slowdown in spending according to the latest Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator (BSI).

Spending was flat in trend terms in February (0.0 per cent growth), matching the result from January. This shows a progressive slowing in growth since September 2015 when spending grew by 0.6 per cent, followed by growth of 0.5 per cent in October, 0.3 per cent in November and 0.1 per cent in December. 

However, while annual growth of spending also eased from 6.3 per cent to 5.6 per cent in February, this current annualised result remains well above the decade-average of 4.8 per cent growth. Six of the eight states and territories had slight increases in monthly sales, however the national score was weighed down by two states (Victoria and Queensland).

Craig James, Chief Economist, CommSec, said that the result represents a softening of the strong spending growth for much of 2015.

“Spending has been largely flat so far in 2016, indicating a bit of a pullback in growth from previous months. This softening of spending growth may be due in part to some concerns around the volatility in global financial markets since the beginning of the year.

“However, consumer confidence remains high and interest rates remain at record lows indicating an increase in spending may not be too far away,” Mr James said.

The more volatile seasonally adjusted measure of the BSI fell by 1.7 per cent in February, after rising by 1.1 per cent the previous two months, while annual seasonally adjusted growth also fell from 7.4 per cent to 5.0 per cent.

Industry analysis

Spending growth slowed in most sectors in February, with the exception of Clothing Stores which lifted 0.3 per cent after falling the previous two months.

Of the sectors experiencing gains, notable was Government Services, up 1.9 per cent, the sixth consecutive month of growth. Sales at Automobile & Vehicle Rentals rose for the 14th straight month, up by 0.6 per cent.

At the other end of the scale, seven of the 19 industry sectors fell in trend terms in February: Airlines, Automobiles & Vehicles, Amusement & Entertainment, Business Services, Mail Order/Telephone Order Providers, Retail Stores and Transportation.

State-by-state analysis

Sales rose in six of the eight states and territories in February, with ACT posting the strongest growth (up 1.2 per cent), followed by the Northern Territory (up 1.0 per cent), NSW (up 0.7 per cent), Tasmania and Western Australia (both up 0.2 per cent) and South Australia (up 0.1 per cent). Sales fell in Victoria (down 1.1 per cent) and Queensland (down 0.02 per cent).

In annual terms, every state and territory posted sales above a year ago. Strongest growth was in ACT (up 11.4 per cent) from Tasmania (up 11.3 per cent), Western Australia (up 9.1 per cent), NSW (up 7.2 per cent), Northern Territory (up 6.4 per cent), South Australia (up 6.1 per cent), Queensland (up 5.7 per cent) and Victoria (up 2.3 per cent).

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.


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.

For further media enquiries please contact:

Commonwealth Bank Media
P: 02 9118 6919

Find out more about the latest Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator