By James Glynn
SYDNEY–Australian retail sales growth was weaker than expected in April, coming in unchanged from March, as consumers continue to suffer under the weight of rising interest rates and still-elevated inflation.
Retail turnover was unchanged in April, compared with an expected rise of 0.3%, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Friday.
The result follows a 0.4% rise in March and 0.2% rise in February. Overall, retail spending has plateaued over the last six months, with consumers spending less on discretionary goods in response to cost-of-living pressures, especially in the areas of rents and energy bills.
Consumers are feeling the sting of soaring mortgage repayments after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the official cash rate at a record pace over the last year to tame the highest inflation outcomes in over three decades.
The RBA continues to warn that further tightening of the policy screws might be needed if inflation proves any harder to tame than currently expected.
The central bank is also unsure about the outlook for consumer demand as a big unknown for the economy, especially as unemployment remains near its lowest levels in 50 years and households have savings buffers accrued through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Spending on clothing, footwear and personal-accessory retailing rose 1.9% in April from the prior month, while department-store sales rose 1.5% for the month, the ABS said.
Households-goods retailing fell 1.0% in April, its third straight monthly fall in turnover, while spending on cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services recorded its first monthly fall after 13 straight rises.
Still, spending at cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services remains at a particularly high level despite the fall in April, with turnover up 13.3% compared with this time last year, the ABS said.
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