More Aussies saving as retail sales slump

Retail sales have fallen unexpectedly, suggesting Australian shoppers are feeling less confident about spending big on the high street.

New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show retail trade fell by 1.4 per cent in February to $19.8 billion, reported.

The fall is a particular shock given that economists had predicted a 0.3 per cent rise in sales for the month.

It suggests that rising interest rates have bred caution among shoppers, perhaps prompting some to compare savings accounts as a growing number of Aussies put money away for a rainy day.

Referring to the possibility of another interest rate hike by the Reserve Bank (RBA) next week, JPMorgan economist Helen Kevans said: "Looking at these numbers I think there’s reason for concern … the RBA will get to its meeting next week and weigh the strength in the housing market against the weakness in the consumer."

Commonwealth Bank has predicted that of the remaining nine monetary policy meetings this year, it expects the RBA to raise rates at four of them.

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