By Jonathan Underhill
New Zealand retail spending on electronic cards rose for a 10th straight month in February, led by an increase in consumables such as food and liquor.
Retail spending rose 0.7 percent, seasonally adjusted, in February from January and actual sales in the month were up 9.3 percent to $4.64 billion compared with February 2015, Statistics New Zealand said.
Core retail spending, which excludes vehicle-related industries, rose 1.2 percent, mainly reflecting the decline in petrol prices, with fuel spending down 2.1 percent.
Consumers became less confident in February, based on the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index, which slipped back down to its historical average, although economists said overall sentiment was still reasonably robust.
A slight dimming of confidence comes amid signs some of the steam is coming out of Auckland's overheated housing market, although consumers still have access to cheap credit.
Four of the six retail industries measured recorded increases last month.
Spending in the hospitality industry rose 1.6 percent, seasonally adjusted, while spending on durables climbed 0.7 percent and on apparel by 0.8 percent.
Card spending on services - everything from repairs and maintenance to funerals - fell 0.6 percent in the latest month, and was up 9.6 percent from the same month last year. Non-retail industry spending fell 2.5 percent in the month and was up 10.3 percent from a year earlier.
In actual terms, card-holders made 123 million transactions in February, with an average value of $51 and a total spend of $6.3 billion.