By James Glynn

SYDNEY--Australia business conditions remain positive despite a year of languishing confidence and wider evidence that consumer confidence remains deeply depressed.

Business conditions fell 1 point to +9 index points in March from February, while business confidence rose 1 point to just +1 index point, according to a monthly survey of business by National Australia Bank.

"We've now seen conditions running a little above average and confidence a little below average for the better part of a year, which is a fairly unusual result in the history of the survey," said Alan Oster, chief economist at NAB.

Retail price growth remained strong at 1.3% in quarterly equivalent terms, which suggests progress on taming inflation is likely to be gradual, the data showed.

The relatively firm business conditions reading comes despite two years of depressed consumer sentiment, with households struggling under the weight of the fastest rise in official interest rates since the 1980s and the biggest jump in living costs in around the same period.

By comparison, firms remain resilient, with hiring still solid, though job vacancies are in retreat.

"At some point, we have to expect these two headline measures to come back into better balance, either because firms' concerns are allayed and the outlook improves, or because the economy slows further," Oster said.

Australia's economy grew at its slowest pace in 30 years through 2023, and the Reserve Bank of Australia has recently hinted that further interest rate increases are unlikely.

Many economists believe it will be 2025 before the RBA actually steps in to lower interest rates.

Forward orders rose 3 points to -1 index point in March from February, with some improvement recorded in the retail sector, the data showed.

Write to James Glynn at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-08-24 2227ET