Australian stocks rise as investors await retail sales numbers

Stocks in Australia were higher in morning trade on Friday as investors awaited data on consumer spending patterns in the country.

The ASX 200 rose 0.12 percent in early trade, with most sectors seeing gains.

Investors will be watching out for the release of Australian retail sales figures for November due at 8:30 a.m. HK/SIN.

Ahead of the data release, shares of most retailers gained; Wesfarmers rose 1.13 percent, Woolworths advanced 0.33 percent and JB Hi-Fi added 1.19 percent.

“Retail Sales data around this time of year are particularly interesting as consumer spending patterns have been shifting,” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.

Attrill cited the rise of sales days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday as resulting in households pushing their Christmas and Boxing Day expenditure forward into November.

“Markets will likely interpret any strong November Retail Sales outcome with a degree of caution — a solid result could easily be offset by a weaker December result due to these shifting seasonal spending patterns. However, if Retail Sales are weak in the month, this will likely be taken as a sign of another weak print for Consumption in (the fourth quarter),” Attrill said.

Meanwhile, futures pointed to a higher open for the Japanese markets following a Thursday decline of more than 1 percent. Nikkei futures traded in Chicago were at 20,375 while their counterparts in Osaka changed hands at 20,350. The benchmark index last closed at 20,163.80.






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Dow and S&P 500 on a five-day winning streak

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both notched gains, putting them on a five-day winning streak. The Dow added 122.80 points to close at 24,001.92 while the S&P 500 advanced 0.4 percent to finish its trading day at 2,596.64. The Nasdaq Composite also rose 0.4 percent to close at 6,986.07.

The U.S. moves came despite Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell voicing concern over increasing U.S. debt.

“I’m very worried about it,” Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “From the Fed’s standpoint, we’re really looking at a business cycle length: that’s our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, nonsustainability of the U.S. federal government isn’t really something that plays into the medium term that is relevant for our policy decisions.”

However, “it’s a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face,” he added.

The Fed chief’s comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations. Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth such as now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits.


The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 95.551 after seeing an earlier low of 95.029.

The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 108.36 after seeing highs below 108 yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7182 after seeing lows above $0.714 in the previous session.

— CNBC’s Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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