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Friday, January 10, 2020

Australian Retail Sales Jump Most in 2 Years on Black Friday

(Bloomberg) -- Australians opened their wallets in November to take advantage of Black Friday sales, providing a much-needed boost for retailers that have struggled in an environment of record-high household debt and stagnant real wages.Retail sales surged 0.9% in the month before Christmas, more than double economists’ 0.4% estimate, as consumers took advantage of steep discounts to buy up ahead of the traditional holiday period, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed in Sydney Friday. The result sets up a potentially weak December if typical festive spending was pulled-forward. December sales have actually declined in the prior two years.

“The emergence of Black Friday in Australia’s retail landscape has boosted sales,” said James McIntyre, chief economist for Australia at Bloomberg Economics. “But the pull forward of Christmas spending has also set up the December figures for a very poor outcome, which will be compounded by the impacts of bush fires and smoke pollution across Australia’s major economic centers. The slump in consumer sentiment over recent weeks is likely to weigh on spending into January as well.”

The result is likely to bring some relief to the Reserve Bank and government after Australians opted to use last year’s three interest-rate reductions to pay down their mortgages faster and saved their tax rebates, third-quarter GDP data showed. Today’s figures also show the rising importance of online spending, with with e-retailing’s share of turnover climbing to 7.1% from 6.6% in November 2018.

Breaking down the data, department stores and clothing, footwear and personal accessories both rose by more than 3%. Indeed, of the six categories surveyed, only one -- other retailing -- fell in the month.

“We have seen strong growth in Black Friday sales, both in areas such as electrical goods and online sales, but also in areas such as clothing and furniture,” said Ben James, an official at the statistics office. “While seasonal adjustment removes regular seasonal patterns associated with Black Friday based on prior results, the strong seasonally adjusted rises in a number of sub-groups this month shows that the impact of this Black Friday exceeded that of previous years.”

The Australian dollar rose 0.2% following the release and was trading at 68.63 U.S. cent at 12:38 p.m. in Sydney, little changed from Thursday’s close. Traders scaled back pricing for a February rate cut to less than 50% following the retail figures.

(Updates with comment from economist in third paragraph.)

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