December 6, 2018 / 1:19 AM / 5 months ago

Australian retail sales rise modestly, dims Q4 outlook

SYDNEY, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Australian retailers posted another month of weak sales in October with dining out and takeaway food posting rare declines, indicating a dull start for the final quarter of the year.

Data out on Thursday showed retail sales grew 0.3 percent in October from a downwardly revised 0.1 percent in September and economists’ expectations of a modest 0.2 percent rise.

Household goods retailing and clothing sales bounced after a weak September while cafes, restaurants and takeaways slipped 0.9 percent, their biggest fall since August 2017.

Australia’s retail sector faces several headwinds amid a downturn in the country’s once-red hot property market, sluggish wages and stratospheric household debt.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has singled out household consumption as a “continuing source of uncertainty” with wage growth stuck at around 2 percent.

That is one reason it has left interest rates at a record low 1.50 percent since last easing in August 2016.

Some economists suspect a combination of tepid income growth, cautious consumer spending and falling home prices will eventually hurt the A$1.8 trillion economy, which is in its 28th year of growth without a recession.

Indeed, data out earlier this week showed domestic activity slowed by more than expected last quarter, prompting investors to push out the chance of any rate hike.

Interest rate futures are not pricing-in a full 25-basis-point hike until mid-2020.

Separate data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Thursday showed Australia’s trade surplus shrank 21 percent to A$2.3 billion compared with A$2.9 billion the previous month as imports outpaced exports. (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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