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NZ Retail Sales - January 2001

Data Flash (New Zealand) NZ Retail Sales - January 2001

Key points Statistics New Zealand estimate that total nominal retail sales fell 0.3% mom in January - slightly weaker than the provisional estimate - but were 5.1% higher than a year earlier (seasonally adjusted - actual sales were 7.5% higher than a year earlier).

Seven of the fifteen storetypes recorded decreased sales. Of the non-automative storetypes, the largest decreases were recorded in the clothing and softgoods and `other store' storetypes. However, this was offset by increased sales in the department store, recreational goods and cafe and restaurant storetypes. Excluding motor vehicle sales and services, retail sales were unchanged during the month.

Both the motor vehicle sales and services storetypes recorded lower sales in January. Car registration data suggests a rebound in car sales will be recorded in February. The decline in motor vehicle services sales reflects lower petrol prices during January.

On a regional basis, the strongest sales growth was recorded in the Waikato region (+2.3%mom). Sales fell 2.8%mom in the Canterbury region following two months of strongly growth. Monthly data at the regional level are particularly volatile and should be treated with caution.

Statistics New Zealand have decided to discontinue the advance release of retail sales data (which had occurred typically on the 21st of the following month) with immediate effect, citing user criticism of the reliability of the early estimates.

Commentary

The market had expected a 0.2%mom rise in retail sales, with strong growth in credit card billings and anecdotal evidence pointing to a stronger result than suggested by the advance release.

In that sense, today's outcome is a little surprising. However, monthly sales data can be quite volatile and we look for a solid rebound in sales during February. Consumer confidence remains very robust - yesterday's Colmar Brunton survey showed confidence rising from +33 to +38 in March - and there is now fairly firm evidence that the housing market has continued to strengthen during February. Both of these factors, together with solid employment growth and accelerating wage growth, point to stronger growth in retail sales over the period ahead.

Darren Gibbs, Senior Economist


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