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Company News

UPDATE 1-Australia retailers enjoy bumper sales in July, outlook gloomy

(Adds card spending data from major banks)

SYDNEY, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Australian retailers enjoyed another month of solid sales in July with gains seen in all states and territories except virus-stricken Victoria, however, card spending data pointed to gloomier conditions in August.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Friday reported retail sales jumped 3.2% to A$30.7 billion ($22.3 billion) in July from a month ago, and up a robust 12% year-on-year. This follows a solid 2.7% monthly rise in June.

Household goods retailing led the monthly rises in July with sales of furniture, whitegoods and electrical items remaining strong.

Turnover in clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing, and cafes, restaurants also soared across the country, with the exception of Victoria, where the re-introduction of stay-at-home restrictions partially offset these rises, the ABS said.

Australia has largely curbed the spread of the virus and reopened its economy earlier-than-expected in May, allowing retail outlets and restaurants to get back to business.

But with more than a million people out of work, the unemployment rate at a 22-year high of 7.5%, wages growth at record lows and a cut in government welfare payments, the retail sector outlook appears grim.

Indeed, card spending data from Australia’s major lenders are now showing a slowdown.

For the week ended Aug. 29, figures from National Australia Bank showed a 2.5% annual decline in overall consumption - the first negative read since early-May.

ANZ Banking Group also saw spending shrink for the first time since the week-ending May 17.

NAB experienced a 15% fall in spending in Victoria, which had an outsized influence on the national result. Worryingly, total payment inflows into NAB merchants also turned negative.

For top lender Commonwealth Bank, spending was still in positive territory but decelerated to 1% from in the week-ended Aug. 28 from growth rates of 10-12% in July. ($1 = 1.3753 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Sam Holmes)

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