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Aussies are investing in homes as clothing budgets take a hit

Over the past 12 months, household spending has experienced a notable uptick, registering a growth of 3.1%, as disclosed in the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Robert Ewing, Head of Business Statistics at ABS, attributed this increase primarily to expenditures on essential goods and services.

Non-discretionary spending witnessed a robust surge of 5.8% compared to the same period in the previous year, driven by an 8.3% increase in spending on transport and a 7.8% rise in health-related expenditures during November. Concurrently, the Black Friday sales event contributed to a boost in discretionary spending, resulting in households allocating 0.3% more towards discretionary goods and services than in November 2022.

Mish Tan, ABS head of finance statistics, said: “November saw continued growth in the value and number of new owner-occupier dwelling loan commitments, which rose 0.1 per cent and 1.0 per cent in the month respectively.”

“The growth in owner-occupier and investor lending seen through 2023 was driven by the three states with the largest populations. For both owner-occupiers and investors, New South Wales saw the most growth,” Dr Tan said.

Analysing specific categories, spending on furnishings and household equipment demonstrated a notable 1.7% increase from the corresponding period last year. However, there was a marginal decline of 0.1% in spending on clothing and footwear during the same timeframe.

Notably, household spending exhibited growth across all states and territories when compared to the previous year. The Northern Territory emerged with the most substantial increase in spending at +8.7%, followed by South Australia with a growth of +5.2%, and Western Australia with a notable uptick of +4.6%.

‘Softer’ year ahead

Ahead of the Reserve Bank’s initial rates announcement for the year, there are indications of an economic softening, with a slowdown in spending and home loan value growth. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) lending data released on Friday, while the value of new loans continues to increase, the rate of growth has diminished.

NAB economists interpret this trend as suggestive of financial conditions not being overly restrictive concerning new lending demand. They note that sustained housing momentum could potentially support consumer spending in 2024, contributing to the concept of a soft landing.

In November, the value of new housing loan commitments saw a 1% rise, following a substantial 7.1% surge in October, marking a 13.1% increase from the previous year. Owner-occupier loans for individuals residing in their own homes experienced a notable 10.1% growth through the year to November.

Refinanced owner-occupier loan commitments also rose by 4.2%, reaching a level akin to March 2022 before the Reserve Bank initiated its cash rate hikes. CommSec economist Craig James suggests that elevated home prices and already high interest rates are prompting homeowners to renovate rather than relocate.

The data underscores the ongoing strength in the housing market, fueled by a supply shortage and robust population growth. Despite increased borrowing costs and tightened financial conditions, analysts anticipate that high net overseas migration and a slow rise in the housing stock will sustain home prices and demand for home loans.

The ABS’s monthly household data, released on the same day, reveals that household spending in November was 3.1% higher than the previous year, driven by increased spending on essential items. Non-discretionary spending, particularly on transport and health, rose by 5.8% year-on-year. Black Friday contributed to a 0.3% increase in spending on discretionary goods and services compared to November 2022.

However, spending on clothing and footwear declined by 0.1%, while purchases of furnishings and household equipment saw a notable 1.7% jump. Despite the rise in household spending, the rate of growth has generally decelerated, with September showing a 4.3% increase compared to 2022, down from August’s 5.3% boost over the previous year.

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