Virus flare-ups to test consumer mood

The release of economic reports pick up this week after the holiday-period lull and will focus on how consumers are coping in the face of virus flare-ups.

Jan 10, 2021, updated Jan 10, 2021
Retail trade numbers for November are released on Monday. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Retail trade numbers for November are released on Monday. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The data will give a clue to how Australians are coping with local flare-ups of COVID-19 and what that might mean for retail spending in the early stages of 2021 and the economic recovery more generally.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index is released on Tuesday.

This weekly gauge ended last year on a sour note in response to the coronavirus cluster in NSW’s northern beaches, pulling back from a high for 2020 having rebounded strongly as the economy recovered from the depths of recession.

More recently the Greater Brisbane region went into lockdown this weekend after an infection from the super-contagious UK strain of the virus was detected.

“While new cases may be coming under control again the scare compounded by partial lockdowns and a return to border closures will weigh a bit on confidence, which may not be enough to stop the recovery, but it could slow it,” AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said.

The monthly Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey is also released on Wednesday.

In December, this index surged to a 10-year high after recovering 48 per cent from a low in April when there was a nationwide lockdown.

Such strength in confidence has been reflected in recent retail spending figures.

Retail trade numbers for November are released on Monday. Preliminary figures for the month released just before Christmas showed a stellar seven per cent increase to be over 13 per cent up on the year.

This was largely the result of a strong performance in Victoria as it emerged from its lengthy COVID-19 lockdown.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release its latest job vacancies report for the the three months to November on Wednesday.

Other gauges of employment vacancies, such as the ANZ job advertisement series, have shown solid growth and indicate a further improvement in the unemployment rate in coming months.

Housing finance figures for November round out the week on Friday and another data series that has seen a marked recovery, posting a record high for owner-occupier home loans in October.

Meanwhile, Australian shares look set to continue their positive start to the year as Wall Street predicted a Joe Biden presidency will pump more stimulus into the world’s largest economy.

US markets shrugged off employment figures on Friday that showed employers cut jobs for the first time since April.

Investors instead are looking forward to President-elect Biden’s inauguration later this month, which led to key stock indices scoring record highs.

The US S&P 500 index rose 0.5 per cent to 3824.68, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2 per cent to 31,097.97 and the Nasdaq climbed one per cent to 13,201.98.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX200 index ended Friday 0.7 per cent higher at 6757.9 and posted a 2.6 per cent gain for the first trading week of the year.

Share futures point to further gains at Monday’s opening, rising seven points, or 0.1 per cent, to 6704.

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