ABS Releases March Retail Sales and Trade Surplus Figures; Results Above Expectations

  • May 07, 2019 AEST
  • Team Kalkine
ABS Releases March Retail Sales and Trade Surplus Figures; Results Above Expectations

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released retail sales and trade surplus figures for March 2019 today.

The March retail sales and trade surplus data exceeded the expectations of the economists. The trade surplus amounted to $4.9 billion, and retail sales rose by seasonally-adjusted 0.3 per cent in March against the expectation of $4.5 billion trade surplus and 0.2 per cent growth in retail sales.

The exports reduced by 2 per cent to $39.3 billion in March 2019 while the imports fell 1 per cent to $34.4 billion. The rural exports improved 3 per cent to $4.2 billion due to a jump in the meat exports. The value of iron ore exports declined by 12 per cent due to the cyclone activity in Western Australia, but it was balanced by the bounce of 16 per cent in coal exports from the east coast.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the retail sales volume declined by 0.1 per cent in the March quarter 2019. The fall in sales volume was headed by a reduction in household goods retailing by 0.6 per cent and drop in department stores retailing by 1.2 per cent. However, the retail sales volume rose in seasonally adjusted terms in Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services by 1.0 per cent, Food retailing by 0.1 per cent, Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing by 0.3 per cent and in other retailing by 0.3 per cent.

As indicated in the data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the previous months, the retail sales rose by 0.1 per cent in January 2019 and improved by 0.8 per cent in February 2019 in seasonally adjusted terms.

The table below highlights the percentage change in retail turnover in different industries and regions of Australia in March 2019 in trend terms and seasonally adjusted terms.

According to ABS Director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys, Ben Faulkner, the higher food prices, especially in supermarkets and grocery stores, contributed towards the rise in retail sales in March 2019. In seasonally adjusted terms, Victoria and Northern Territory were the best performers in retail sales in March 2019 while Western Australia was the worst. However, in trend terms, New South Wales performed the best and Tasmania performed the worst.

The Australian dollar rose above US70¢ level for a while after the figures of retail turnover were released by the ABS, which fell to US69.85¢ yesterday owing to Donal’s Tweet announcement of raising tariffs on Chinese imports to 25%.

The market analysts called the fall in sales volumes by 0.1 per cent (seasonally-adjusted terms) over the first quarter as the first such decline since 2012.

The contraction in retail trade volume during March is disheartening and signifies another weak quarter of total consumption, as per several economists.

Late in April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released March quarter data on inflation. ABS reported that headline consumer price index remained steady during March 2019. The inflation figures released were disappointing for the economy and raised speculations about the rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia in its May meeting.

The Reserve Bank of Australia cleared the speculations and decided to hold the official cash rate steady at a record low of 1.5 per cent in an announcement today.

The Australian Stock Exchange closed higher at 6295.7 points (on 7th May 2019), up by 0.2 per cent or 12 points relative to last day’s performance.


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