This graph from today's ABS release makes things very clear:
The ABS stopped calculating the trend (the dark line) in November because "it is not possible to determine the trend in retail turnover through the period affected by the Federal Government Economic Security Strategy Package and other influences associated with global economic conditions".
But it is absolutely clear where retail was going. The December stimulus payments broke the trend and continue to do so.
Even with the 2 per cent fall in seasonally adjusted spending in February we are still spending far more in the shops than we would have without the payments.
Commenter Andos asked for Tony Meer's analysis. It's below the fold:
"The 2.0% fall in the seasonally adjusted value of retail turnover follows an upwardly revised 0.5% gain in January and a 3.8% jump in December. The monthly volatility in these data is all about the timing impact of the cash payments associated with the Economic Security Strategy (ESS) and is something that will continue to be a feature of the data going forward as the cash payments associated with the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (NBJP) have started to be made.
Taking account of the upward revision to January (+0.5% from the originally reported +0.2%) the result was in line with our pick and therefore our view remains strongly that the first round of targeted fiscal stimulus is continuing to boost the value of retail turnover relative to what it would have been otherwise.
The easiest way to understand this is by reference to a chart of the level of retail trade. Doing this below, we show (red segment) the level of retail turnover as reported and then (broken blue) retail if the previous weak trend had persisted.
The difference between the two is the impact on retail trade so far of the ESS, i.e. cumulatively retail trade has been around $2billion higher over the three months to February due to the Economic Security Package."