Mixed results for economy-wide spending: CommSec's Craig James

Mixed results for economy-wide spending: CommSec's Craig James
Mixed results for economy-wide spending: CommSec's Craig James


The latest data on economy-wide spending is best described as encouraging. Spending rose in September but slightly slower than the July and August results. Spending was mixed across sectors and states. But the good news is that the annual rate of economy-wide spending remains above longer-term averages.

While spending was up in the Business services category, it can prove volatile so it will be important to see a follow-up lift in sales. The large Retail Stores category (33% of economy-wide sales) rose by 0.5% in trend terms to be up 7.7% over the year – well above the long-term average growth pace of 5.7%.

There are few reasons to prompt the Reserve Bank to cut rates again. The economy is growing, sales are up, business and consumer sentiment are above average and our largest trading partner, China, is rebalancing from an industrial focus to a consumer spending focus and with some degree of success.

What does the data show?

The Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator (BSI), a measure of economy-wide spending, recorded moderate sales growth in September, although down from previous months. The BSI lifted by 0.3% in September, the slowest growth in 35 months and down from 0.5% gains in July and August. Annual growth of spending eased for the third month to 6.8%, but still above the decade- average of 5.1%.

The seasonally-adjusted measure of sales posted a solid 2.8% gain in September – the strongest growth since May 2013. And annual growth lifted from 5.7% to a 10-month high of 8.9%. 

The Commonwealth Bank BSI is obtained by tracking the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank merchant facilities. And in line with the practice of the Bureau of Statistics with its retail trade data, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates of the BSI are obtained by applying statistical software. The seasonally adjusted and trend BSI results are derived from the same SEASABS statistical software. This allows analysis of the broader underlying trends that may be hidden in the raw data. 

Click to enlarge

Mixed results for economy-wide spending: CommSec's Craig James


Across sectors, eight of the 19 industry sectors fell in trend terms in September. But encouragingly, spending in the volatile Business Services category rose by 5.3%. Also notably sales rose at Miscellaneous Stores (up 1.2%), Transportation (up 0.9%), Contracted Services (up 0.8%).

The large Retail Stores sector grew by 0.5% in September after rising between 0.6-0.7% per month over the previous seven months.

Among the weakest sectors in September were Airlines (down 3.6%); Government services (down 1.6%), and Utilities (down by 0.7%). Sales at Personal Service Providers, Service Providers and Mail Order/Telephone Order Providers all fell by 0.2%. 

In annual terms in September, five of the 19 industry sectors contracted including: Utilities, Mail Order/Telephone Order Providers, Automobile and Vehicle Sales and Airlines.

At the other end of the scale, sectors with strongest annual growth in September included: Hotels & Motels; Miscellaneous Stores; Amusement & Entertainment, Service Providers and Wholesale Distributors & Manufacturers.

Sales rose in only four of the states and territories in September: Tasmania (up 1.0%), South Australia (up 0.5%), Western Australia (up 0.4%) and Queensland (up by less than 0.1%). Sales fell the most in Victoria (down 0.8%), ACT (down 0.7%), Northern Territory (down 0.5%) and NSW (down 0.1%).

In annual terms, three states and territories had sales below a year ago in September: Northern Territory (down 8.3%), NSW (down 4.7%) and Victoria (down 1.7%). At the other end of the scale, growth was strongest in Tasmania (up 9.1%) from the ACT and South Australia (up 8.4%), Western Australia (up 7.9%), and Queensland (up 5.9%).

What is the importance of the report?

The Commonwealth Bank releases its Business Sales Index around the 20th each month. The data provides a broader perspective of consumer spending. The Business Sales Indicator includes transactions made at traditional retail establishments such as supermarkets, clothing stores and cafes & restaurants and as such is more comparable to the ABS Household Final Consumption Expenditure released on a quarterly basis. The Business Sales Indicator 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.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The latest data adds to our view that the Reserve Bank will leave official rates unchanged in coming months. 

Click to enlarge

Mixed results for economy-wide spending: CommSec's Craig James

Craig James is chief economist, CommSec and Savanth Sebastian is economist, CommSec. Both can be contacted here.

Economy Spending

Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?