Retail sales rise slightly in Feb

Retail spending lifted for the 10th consecutive month in February.

Retail spending lifted for the 10th consecutive month in February but missed analyst expectations, official data shows.

Australian retail sales rose 0.2% to a seasonally adjusted $22.972 billion in February, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The reading follows a 1.2% rise to a seasonally adjusted $22.925 billion in January, as shoppers opened their wallets in the post-Christmas sales.

Bloomberg economists were expecting the data to show a lift of 0.3%.

Retail sales are 2% higher in the March quarter to date.

Spending on household goods remains strong, while both food and department store spending subtracted from growth in February.

JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said February's slow growth followed a string of strong results in preceding months.

There was a 1.2% gain in retail trade in January and 0.7% rises in both December and November," he said.

"January was a pretty stellar month and we did say at the time that we thought it was probably overstating the fundamentals.

"So, we've had a fair payback in February.

"(The February data) is not disastrous and it does come after a good run but we do think there are some limiting factors that will constrain things.

"The labour market remains pretty soggy ... it's hard to see the consumer accelerating from here until those market conditions change."

RBC Capital Markets senior economist Su-Lin Ong said discretionary spending continued to strengthen.

"In the context of recent prints, it was fairly decent," she said.

"Retail sales, excluding food were up five%, so it was a fairly good result all round.

"Nothing stands out that much except for a pretty strong result for household goods and that's broadly consistent with strong housing sector dynamics.

"There's nothing that really changes the story of an upward trend in retail sales and the firmer consumer sector from last year has definitely continued on into 2014."

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