Spending across Australia grew by 0.2 per cent in March, continuing a pattern of consistent, but modest, sales increases in 2015, according to Commonwealth Bank’s latest Business Sales Indicator (BSI). The rate of growth in March matches the sales increases seen in January and February, suggesting consumer spending is steady at a national level.
In annual terms, the BSI grew by 5.7 per cent, taking sales growth above the decade average of 5.3 per cent.
"Consumers are showing resilience against the uncertainty we have been experiencing in domestic and global markets. The latest figures reveal that although confidence is soft, consumers are still spending," said Ms Claire Roberts, Executive General Manager, Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank.
"Despite this measured growth, businesses should remain optimistic and get strategies in place for growth. It is as important as ever for businesses to have solid plans in place, but still remain prudent as consumers continue to have a guarded approach to their spending," said Ms Roberts.
Craig James, Chief Economist at the Bank’s broking subsidiary CommSec and author of the BSI report, said that although consumer confidence is solid, macro-economic factors were creating a sense of uncertainty.
"Consumers have some extra money in their wallets through a combination of low rates and cheaper petrol, and the March BSI shows they’re out there cautiously spending. However, influences such as a lower Aussie dollar and the upcoming Federal Budget may be filtering down to soft consumer confidence and as such we are not seeing big rises in spending," said Mr James.
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.
Across sectors, spending fell in seven of the 19 industry sectors in trend terms in March. The strongest performers were Professional Services & Membership Organisations (up by 2.2 per cent) and Miscellaneous Stores (up 1.2 per cent).
Among the weakest sectors were Business Services (down by 4.1 per cent); Automobile & Vehicle Sales (down by 2.2 per cent); and Amusement & Entertainment (down by 1.1 per cent).
State by state analysis
Sales fell in three of the states and territories in March: Northern Territory (down 1.2 per cent), NSW and Victoria (both down 0.8 per cent). The biggest increases in sales were seen in South Australia (up by 0.7 per cent), followed by Western Australia and ACT (both up 0.3 per cent), then Queensland and Tasmania (both up 0.2 per cent).
In annual terms, sales were lower than at the same time last year in NSW, Victoria and Northern Territory. At the other end of the scale, growth was strongest in ACT (up 8.5 per cent), Tasmania (up 7.5 per cent), South Australia (up 6.3 per cent), Queensland (up 5.6 per cent) and Western Australia (up 4.1 per cent).
Find out more about the latest Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator.
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.