Retail, Trade Figures Keep the Good News Coming

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The good economic news rolls on in the wake of the upbeat GDP and national accounts data on Wednesday.

Retail sales in April rose an unchanged 1.1% according to the final report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, while the balance of trade for the same month was just over $8 billion, down from the merchandise trade surplus of $10.1 billion.

The balance of trade saw a rise of $2.234 billion to $8.028 billion in April from the surprisingly low $5.8 billion in March.

April’s surplus was the 40th monthly surplus in a row (and the 51st in the last 52 months).

It confirms that the 7.4% rise in the terms of trade in the March quarter continued into the first month of the June quarter, as suggested by the Reserve Bank’s latest Commodity price Index and a 3.4% rise in April and a 5.8% jump in May.

The surge in the terms of trade drove the 3.5% rise in nominal GDP in the quarter which means more tax revenues for the Federal government.

That’s continuing right now with iron ore prices back close to their all-time highs, copper, nickel, lead, wheat and LNG prices all strong as well as thermal coal.

Total exports of goods and services were up 3% or $1.17 billion (3%) to $39.772 billion.

Total imports of goods and services fell $1.064 billion or 3% to $31.743 billion.

Meanwhile the value of retail sales in April hit the second highest monthly figure in the history of the series of $31.574 billion.

That was up 1.1% from March (unchanged from the early estimate late last month) and a massive 25% higher than April 2020 when most of the retail sector (apart from food, petrol, liquor and takeaway food outlets were closed in the lockdowns. Sales that month totalled $24.816 billion.

Australia’s department stores saw a fall in sales but all other retail categories gained ground.

A second straight month of improved retail trade showed NSW and Victoria as the spending leaders, and Western Australia the weakest state,

Food retailing rose 1.4% ($168.3 million) in April, in seasonally adjusted terms, Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services saw a 2.3% ($91.1 million) increase, Household goods retailing rose 1.5% ($82.9 million), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory sales were up 1.2% ($29.1) in April and Other retailing rose 1.7% ($79 million).

The unchanged retail trade and solid trade surplus for April tells us that economic activity has started the June quarter buoyantly.

As well building approvals fell 8.6% because of a 28% drop in approvals for new home units and apartments but the was another rise in approvals for private dwellings which will keep the current building boom going until well into 2022.


About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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