13 Jun 2012

Spending is based on rising incomes, says economist

7:15 am on 13 June 2012

An economist says an increase in retail spending will be more sustainable this time as shoppers base spending on rising incomes rather than rising house prices.

Spending using credit, debit and charge cards rose a seasonally-adjusted 0.9% in May, after a similar gain in April.

Fuel retailing accounted for much of the pickup, and shoppers spent more on furniture, hardware and appliances, clothing and footwear, but cut back on spending at restaurants, bars and cafes.

On an annual basis, retail spending using electronic cards rose 6.7% in the year to the end of May.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon says the pickup was stronger than expected, but more sustainable than spending underpinned by rising asset values.

"Now we're in an environment where we don't have that value to squeeze out of houses. So we'll probably see modest growth in house prices, and as a result I think people will be spending more in line with income growth.

"So that's going to be quite a different story from the last decade, but it's far more sustainable. I think longer term it is a better result."

Mr Gordon says he would not expect Tuesday's data to change the Reserve Bank's approach to interest rates.

"If Europe blows up in a bad way they have room to cut rates, if that doesn't happen then ultimately the next moves are going to be up, but maybe not until we get more signs that the recovery is securely underway."