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Media Release

Significant lift in spending intentions: CBA research

CBA research: Significant lift in spending intentions

Income tax refunds combined with an improving housing market push retail spending intentions into positive territory, according to CBA’s Household Spending Intentions series.

Latest data from the Commonwealth Bank Household Spending Intentions (HSI) series provides a positive signal for the Australian economy, with spending intentions holding at “respectable” levels or moving higher in every sector covered by the HSI, except motor vehicles.

CBA Chief Economist Michael Blythe said: “the September edition of the Household Spending Intentions series indicates that spending intentions are improving in Australia, with a combination of income tax refunds and a stronger housing market leading the charge.”

“Significantly, the home buying spending intentions series has moved back into positive territory and this should help drive a further improvement in retail spending intentions in the months ahead,” Mr Blythe added.

CBA’s HSI series offers a forward-looking view by analysing actual customer behaviour from CBA’s transactions data, along with household spending intentions from Google Trends search data. This combination adds to insights on prospective household spending trends in the Australian economy.

Mr Blythe said the inflow of tax refunds into CBA accounts reveals a sharp lift in both the total value of those refunds and the average size of a refund, with the value of inflows in the July/August period about 40 per cent above “normal” levels.

“The refunds are not surprising but the rate of inflow suggests that many households have moved early to secure their refunds. The boost to household spending power is larger and coming through sooner than originally expected,” Mr Blythe said.

“The better news is that this tax refund money seems set to flow through to consumer spending. The upward trend that we have seen in retail spending intentions is a positive signal,” Mr Blythe added.

Mr Blythe also points to Australia’s housing market going from strength to strength.

“The housing market has turned sooner and more aggressively than expected. And CBA’s home buying spending intentions points to further solid improvement ahead,” said Mr Blythe.

“The accelerated turn in home buying intentions is a positive indicator for retail spending, consumer confidence and construction activity,” Mr Blythe added.

The retail household spending intention is back in positive territory for the first time since early 2019.

Household Spending Intentions – September 2019 edition

CBA obtains an early indication of spending trends across seven key household sectors in Australia. Apart from home buying, the series covers around 55 per cent of Australia’s total consumer spend across;  retail, travel, education, entertainment, motor vehicles, and health and fitness.

Household Spending Intentions – August 2019 results

CBA obtains an early indication of spending trends across seven key household sectors in Australia. Apart from home buying, the series covers around 55 per cent of Australia’s total consumer spend across;  retail, travel, education, entertainment, motor vehicles, and health and fitness.

Retail Spending Intentions
  • Payment of the tax refund to households is proceeding at a faster rate than expected. 
  • The lift in retail spending intentions back into positive territory is an encouraging sign that the refund will be spent, stimulating consumer activity.
  • The turn in home buying intentions will help. Any lift in housing turnover is typically followed by a lift in housing-related spending. 

Travel Spending Intentions
  • The lift in travel spending intentions suggests the tax refund boost and the turn in the housing market will impact positively on broader consumer spending trends.  
  • The lift also highlights the risk that some of the stimulus leaks into spending on imports. 
  • A weaker Aussie dollar should help contain some of this potential leakage.  

Home Buying Spending Intentions
  • The turn in home buying intentions is accelerating.
  • The HSI is running at the upper end of the historical range.
  • And the momentum behind the improvement is the highest over the life on the HSI.

Education Spending Intentions
  • The picture for education-related spending intentions has not changed.
  • The education HSI retains a solid momentum.  

Entertainment Spending Intentions
  • As with the lift in travel spending intentions, the improvement in the entertainment HSI suggests the taxrefund and an improving housing market are lifting spending plans more broadly. 
  • The rise in HSI in readings relating to discretionary spending is potentially an indication of improving consumer sentiment.

Motor Vehicles Spending Intentions
  • Motor vehicle spending intentions remain very subdued.
  • Vehicle spending has proved particularly susceptible to the negative wealth effect from earlier falls in dwelling prices.
  • Industry sources suggest the availability of finance has also been an issue restraining vehicle purchase activity.  

Health & Fitness Spending Intentions
  • Health & fitness spending intentions are largely unchanged.
  • HSI readings continue to run around average levels.  

To find out more about CBA’s Household Spending Intentions Series, visit

Notes for Editors:

About the approach

The new approach focuses on Australian households and their spending intentions. Employing near real-time spending readings from CBA’s household transactions data and combining them with relevant search information from Google Trends was used to map the data results on consumer spending.

About Google Trends

Google Trends is a publically available service that enables people to explore search trends around the world. These searches provide insights into what consumers are doing/researching on the Internet and what their spending intentions are.

Research calendar

CBA’s Household Spending Intentions series is published on the third Tuesday of every month.


This ‘CBA-Google Household Intentions’ series provides general market-related information, and is not intended to be an investment research report. The ‘CBA-Google Household Intentions’ series has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation (including the capacity to bear loss), knowledge, experience or needs. Before acting on the information in the ‘CBA-Google Household Intentions’ series, you should consider the appropriateness and, if necessary seek appropriate professional or financial advice, including tax and legal advice. The data used in the ‘CBA-Google Household Intentions’ series is a combination of the CBA Data and Google Trends™ data. Google Trends is a trademark of Google LLC. All customer data used or represented in this report is anonymous and aggregated before analysis and is used and disclosed in accordance with the Commonwealth Bank Group’s Privacy Policy Statement.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945.

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