February electronic card spend total down

New Zealand seasonally adjusted retail spending on electronic cards fell in February, failing to continue January’s gain.

Retail spending on credit and debit cards fell a seasonally adjusted 0.6% last month, after a 2.7% increase in January, the biggest monthly increase since January 2006, Statistics New Zealand said. Actual retail spending climbed 2.6% to $4.8billion in February from the same month a year ear-lier, although February 2016 had an extra day of trading as it was a leap year.

"The fall in total card spending in February was driven by a lull in furniture, electronics and department store purchases," business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said.

The Reserve Bank is keeping a close watch on consumer spending after an unexpectedly strong gain in consumption through the second half of last year, and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has noticed people are more willing to fund retail purchases with debt.

Yesterday’s figures show core retail spending, which excludes vehicle-related industries, dropped 0.7% in February from January, with spending on durables — which includes furniture, hardware, electronics and pharmaceuticals — down 2.1%, turning around a 3.2% increase in that category in January. Hospitality spending fell 1.2% and apparel was down 3.3%.

Of the non-retail industries, non-retail excluding services dipped 1.3% from January, while spending in the services industry rose 2.1%.

Spending on fuel rose 2.8%, while vehicle spending slipped 0.6%.

In actual terms, card-holders made 128 million transactions in February, down from 133 million in January, with an average value of $50. 

- Sophie Boot

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