Data Vault – A weekly wrap up of key economic releases in Australia and beyond

January 16, 2012

Economic Data Vault

January 16th 2011

Welcome to our weekly Data Vault. The Vault is put together by our team here at Lighthouse and we offer it as a resource to readers and clients who want to quickly get a feel for the data over the week without having to read a full blog or economic report. It will be released each Monday morning and while our primary focus is Australia we also include our key overseas indicators.

Australian Data

New Home Sales

After chopping around in the back half of 2011 following sharp falls mid year, new home sales posted a solid increase in November with total sales rising by 6.8%. The rise was driven by non-unit sales which rose 9.8% to 6289 off their second lowest reading since 2000 of 5728 the previous month while unit sales fell 17.1% to 593. It is too early to tell if the latest increase is a result of the shift in the outlook for interest rates or not however sales remain in a clear downtrend.

Retail Sales

The trend in retail sales continued with outcomes of 0.8%, 0.6%, 0.4%, 0.2% and 0.0% over the past five months to November and when combined with the recent consumer confidence numbers confirms that the household sector remains under pressure. The flat outcome for November was well short of the 0.4% that was expected with the two largest components, food and household goods, both unchanged over the month. Early reports are that December was a little more positive but far from robust.

Building Approvals

After back to back double-digit percentage declined in September and November, building approvals bounced back in November with total building approvals increasing by 8.4% over the month. Private approvals rose 8.6% with housing approvals up 4.9% while non-housing or medium density approvals rose 16.1%. Meanwhile public approvals fell for the 4th straight month dropping 3.5%. Despite the jump in the number of approvals, the total value of approvals continued to decline

Offshore Data

US Consumer Credit

Credit extended to consumer in the US posted its biggest jump since the early 2000’s in November when it increased by $20.4bln which was almost three times the growth that the market was expecting. The pickup in consumer lending continues to be driven by non-revolving credit which rose by $14.8bln over the month while revolving credit posted its largest gain since before the GFC, increasing by $5.6bln. The growth in total outstanding credit continues to be driven by the US government who now accounts for 16.7% of consumer credit outstandings.

US Advanced Retail Sales

Consumer spending in the US over the holiday period was a little softer than the market was expecting with advanced retail sales rising by 0.1% during December against expectations of a 0.3% increase. However sales were actually softer than the headline number suggests with sales ex-autos actually falling over the month, dropping by 0.2% which is its first decline since May 2010. While consumer lending jumped in November there is a clear slowing in momentum for retail sales with the annual rates of the three key measures all drifting lower over the past few months.

US Consumer Confidence

The recent improvement in US consumer confidence continued in January according to the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index which rose s little over 4 points to 74 after a final reading of 69.9 in December. The latest rise is the 5th straight month of gains after the index fell to a near record low back in August of 2011 which was largely due to the uncertainty as a result of the debt ceiling debate by the US politicians. Interestingly enough the US is once again hit its debt ceiling with congress poised to re-open the debt ceiling debate over the coming weeks.


While the sovereign crisis remains in the headline the data continue to suggest that Europe is already in a recession with the latest industrial production figures showing a 0.1% in November which was the third fall in as many months. The fall was driven by a 0.8% fall in the production of both  durable and non-durable goods. The real concern is that is it not just the periphery nations that are under pressure with production in Germany falling by 1% over the month. Meanwhile Spain also posted a 1% decline while Ireland’s industrial production sank 9.4%.

GE Trade

International trade figures for Germany also confirm that the Eurozone’s biggest economy is under pressure. While exports rose a solid 2.5% in November it wasn’t enough to offset a revised 2.9% fall for the previous month while the annual pace continues to moderate. More importantly German imports continue to stall, falling by 0.4% in November which was their fourth fall in the past 8 months with the level of imports largely unchanged since March. This has seen the annual pace of imports continue to moderate as well and now sits at 6.9% which is the slowest pace since emerging from the GFC with the correlation to the Chinese leading index suggesting a further moderation ahead.

China Trade

After a solid jump in both exports and imports in November, China’s trade figures also disappointed in December. Exports edged up 0.1% over the month which saw the annual pace of growth ease to 13.4% which was in line with market expectations however imports fell 1.1%, which was their third fall in the past fourth month with the annual rate slumping to 11.8% from 22.1% in November, missing the markets expectations of a dip to 18% by a considerable margin. Looking through the monthly volatility it is clear that both Chinese exports and imports are slowing with the annual pace of both steadily declining.

China Inflation

The annual pace of inflation according to both the consumer and producer price indices continued in December with the annual pace of consumer prices dipping to 4.1% while the annual rate of producer prices dropped to 1.7%. There was however some interesting developments within the consumer price index with the annual rate of food price inflation edging higher, due to a sharp jump in fresh vegetable prices while the annual pace of non-food inflation continues to slide, dropping below 2% for the first time in over 12 months. With outcomes of 1% and 1.2% dropping out over the next 2 months the annual rate of CPI is likely to continue to fall.

Yours in data – The Lighthouse Team.

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