Australians are spending as though they are in COVID-19 lockdowns, data from ANZ Bank suggests

Australians are spending as though they are in COVID-19 lockdowns, data from ANZ Bank suggests

No state or territory around the country is in lockdown, but the economic data coming through now indicates millions of Australians are behaving as if a nation-wide lockdown is in place.

Key points:ANZ data shows that spending has been at its lowest level since the Delta COVID lockdownsCaution about being out in public and staff shortages has also slowed spendingThe pull-back in spending is effectively nationwideThe ANZ’s “internal systems” have captured what many shoppers have handed over the counter at shops and department stores around the country for the week to January 5.

It includes both in-store purchases and spending online. 

“The bank’s data shows spending for the week to 5 January at its lowest level since Delta lockdowns,” the bank notes.

Caution about being in public places is being compounded by staff shortages to stifle spending across dining, retail and travel.

The bank’s senior economist Adelaide Timbrell said the hospitality sector was taking the biggest financial hit.

“Clothing retailers will also face some serious declines because we do tend to see that clothing goes down by around 70 per cent in lockdown conditions,” she said.

“And really anyone who relied on foot traffic, socialising or community-based spending.

“Furniture and appliance retailers will also see a temporary decline because for those bigger, more expensive items we do see that people are less likely to buy those online.”

Nationwide spending slowdownThe pull-back in spending is effectively nationwide.

The data comes from ANZ’s “internal systems”.Spending in Sydney and Melbourne is now near levels typical of lockdown conditions.

Indeed, total spending in Sydney is at its lowest point since COVID began.

In Melbourne specifically and Victoria overall, spending is not as low as during Delta lockdowns and it recovered faster after Delta lockdowns than Sydney, which seems to have been hit harder by interstate travel rules through the past year.

Spending has also fallen sharply in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia since the Christmas trading period, with spending in all states a little lower than 2021’s out of-lockdown levels.

Dining spending in Queensland and Western Australia resembles previous lockdown conditions, while non-food retail spending outside Victoria and New South Wales is closer to out-of-lockdown times in 2021.

Ms Timbrell warned the economy was already taking another big hit.

“The longer this malaise in spending goes on, the more risk it shows for the economy,” she said.

“Unlike a recession or downturn due to finance, it can bounce back really quickly.

“So as soon as this malaise ends it will probably end very, very fast, but the longer it goes on, the more likely it is to cause economic damage.”

Economists are hopeful the crisis will be short-lived.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)Consumer spending makes up the vast majority of economic growth, so this slump in spending puts the economy, again, at risk of recession.

But economists are hopeful the crisis will be short-lived.

“Spending momentum has slowed sharply and we’re likely to see that momentum continue into February,” BIS Oxford Economics Sarah Hunter said.

The big question is, if the hit lingers, will the government step in with more income support?

“And if we don’t see that [government] income support for people who are being affected, that will have more lingering effect,” Ms Timbrell said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said significant challenges remain for the economy.

“The Morrison government has stood alongside businesses every step of the way as we continue to provide unprecedented support to keep their doors open and Australians in jobs, including the loss carry back and immediate expensing measure, small business tax cuts and SME loan guarantee schemes.”

“To secure Australia’s economic recovery, we must continue to open safely, learn to live with the virus, and stick to our economic plan of growing the economy.”

Posted 7 Jan 20227 Jan 2022Fri 7 Jan 2022 at 8:15am, updated 7 Jan 20227 Jan 2022Fri 7 Jan 2022 at 9:33am

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