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Source: Reuters
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  • Australian household spending has returned to pre-COVID levels for the first time, according to the latest CBA Householder Spending Intentions (HSI) Index report
  • The report highlights a 2.1 per cent increase in the index over November to 110.3 points — its highest point since December 2019, before the pandemic struck
  • Travel and transport spending largely led the November rise, though retail spending has also surged after key states came out of extended lockdowns
  • CBA Chief Economist Stephen Halmarick says the data points to a continued recovery in the economy following the “Delta lockdown low” in August
  • The CommBank HSI index combines CBA payments data, loan application information, and publicly available Google Trends data to create its insights into Australian spending

Australian household spending has returned to pre-COVID levels for the first time, according to the latest Householder Spending Intentions (HSI) Index report from CommBank.

The report highlighted a 2.1 per cent increase in the index, which measures Australian consumer spending, to 110.3 points over November. This is the index’s highest point since December 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic first struck.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, transport and travel spending drove the growth, up 21.5 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively following a recent lift on international Australian borders restrictions after an 18-month closure.

Still, retail spending supported the gains, up 9.6 per cent over November. Spending on household services increased by 9.4 per cent.

Design: The Market Herald/Briana Murphy

CBA Chief Economist Stephen Halmarick said the data pointed to a continued recovery in the economy following extended lockdowns in many states over 2021.

“The CommBank HSI Index has shown a continued and broad-based recovery in consumer spending since the end of lockdowns,” Mr Halmarick said.

“While we have seen sharp increases in categories like transport and travel, there is still plenty of room for further growth.”

He added that with travel and retail spending subdued over the course of the pandemic, Australians have grown their savings to record levels.

“CBA estimates households have accumulated approximately $240 billion in excess savings — money that is ready to be spent as we head into Christmas.”

He said the signs were good for “robust” retail sales over the holiday period.

With house prices surging over the past year, however, home buying fell by 27.5 per cent month-on-month over November. Compared to the same time in 2020, home buying is down by 17.6 per cent.

Since what CBA has referred to as the “Delta lockdown low” in August 2021, transport spending has increased by 52 per cent. CommBank said the likes of fuel stations, taxis, tyre stores and auto repair have largely led the surge.

Similarly, travel spending — which includes hotels, resorts, airlines, and tourist attractions — rose by 77 per cent since August.

Meanwhile, with retailers able to reopen in key states over the past two months, retail spending has risen 21 per cent since the August low. The largest gains come from department stores, clothing, furniture and household equipment, and pet shops, among others.

Looking at the November stats compared to the same time last year, all major spending categories for the HSI index are up except for home buying, entertainment, and communications and digital streaming.

Transport leads the charge once more, up 39.4 per cent on the year, while travel is up 25 per cent and motor vehicle spending is up 37.5 per cent.

The CommBank HSI index combines CBA payments data, loan application information, and publicly available Google Trends data to create its insights into Australian spending.

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