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Australia retail sales in surprise fall

From: Dow Jones Newswires W – August 03, 2011 12:11PM

AUSTRALIAN retail sales fell 0.1 per cent to a seasonally adjusted $20.54 billion in June from $20.57bn in May and rose from $20.26bn a year earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said today. Economists surveyed ahead of the announcement on average had expected a rise of 0.3 per cent on month. The Australian dollar was trading at $US107.40 prior to the data release at 1130 AEST, but fell to $US106.88 within seconds.

It closed at $US108.90 yesterday, but has dropped more than 3 US cents in two days, after closing at $US110.55 US cents on Monday. Sales fell 0.6 per cent in May on month. Economists said the figures justified the Reserve Bank of Australia yesterday keeping the cash rate unchanged at 4.75 per cent.

Commsec economist Savanth Sebastian said the retail sales figures were disappointing and in line with other pieces of economic data in recent months. “You look at retail sales and non food spending was down 0.7 in May and 0.5 in June and annualised non food retailing in also negative,” he said. “So over the year … spending in non-food items has clearly gone backwards. “It just means the retail sector will have to keep discounting and passing on the savings of the stronger Aussie dollar. “It justifies the Reserve Bank staying on hold for the meantime.”

The bureau said the trend estimate for retail sales rose 0.1 per cent to $20.61bn in June from May. The trend estimate further smoothes the seasonally adjusted numbers. Sales also rose 0.3 per cent in the second quarter from the first, in chain volume terms, compared with expectations for a rise of 0.3 per cent. Retail turnover, in volume terms, rose to $60.04bn in the second quarter from $59.86bn in the previous quarter.

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