According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, retail sales rose by 1.3% in March, below expectations of 1.4% and the previous month's 1.4% increase. In quarterly terms, retail sales went down by 0.5%, contrasting with the 2.5% increase in the December quarter.
Monthly retail sales were mostly driven upwards by the fact that sales at restaurants and cafes hit a record high, while analysts believe that the quarterly figure went down because consumers went from consuming goods to consuming services.
According to the National Australia Bank, business confidence improved, as its index stood at 26 in April, after being at 15 in March. Trading, profitability and employment conditions also improved, with the Business Confidence Index standing at 32 after being at 25 in March.
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently under control in Australia, with 29,931 cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic as well as 910 deaths, making it one of the least-affected countries in the world. The Australian government continues to distribute vaccinations, so far having delivered 2.7 million dosages, with 402,000 dosages administered last week.
Despite the good news, Health Minister Greg Hunt refrained from setting a new vaccination target, commenting that it could be a point of commentary if it's not reached.
"I won't put a figure on it. Because if I do, if it is above or below, then there could be a point of commentary," he said. "But what we do see is that the numbers are increasing, and we are seeing Australians come forward.”
In its last meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia chose to leave the cash rates unchanged, in line with analysts' expectations and despite the ongoing economic recovery. The GDP jumped by 3.1% in Q4 2020, improving from the 7% drop in Q2, though lower than the 3.4% expansion in Q3.
In March, the unemployment rate stood at 5.6%, falling from 5.8%, which is a sign of a recovering job market. The latest inflation figure of 0.6% was considerably below the bank's target and expectations of 0.9%.
By 10:12 GMT, the Australian dollar rose by 0.47% against the US dollar, hitting the 0.7877 level.