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Glimmers of hope for business investment

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016 Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent

Future business investment plans are finally showing signs of improvement, although actual spending by firms at this stage remains weak.

New figures released on Thursday show private capital expenditures falling 5.4 per cent in the June quarter - worse than economists had expected - and stands 17 per cent lower in the past year.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says investment has slumped 30 per cent since since the coalition came to power three years ago, despite all its talk about "jobs and growth".

"Investment continues to collapse on the coalition's watch ... talk and slogans do not deliver jobs and growth," Mr Bowen said in a statement.

But the figures also show business investment plans are improving, lifting by over 25 per cent in the past six months for the 2016-17 financial year to just over $105 billion.

Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James said this was the biggest increase in spending estimates in nine years.

ANZ economist Kieran Davies said the data also showed solid equipment investment during the June quarter, which should add a modest 0.1 percentage point to growth when the national accounts are released next Thursday.

However, economists are still anticipating a more modest increase in GDP overall - probably less than half the 1.1 per cent scored in the first three months of the year.

But it should be enough to keep the annual growth rate above three per cent.

There is still a spread of data to be released early next week for business profits, inventories, exports and government spending before economists get a better handle on the likely growth result.

Retail spending, meanwhile, remained far from rosy.

New numbers showed no growth in spending in July after a meagre 0.1 per cent increase in June.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said consumers were still reluctant to spend, with many possibly still left reeling from economic and world concerns such as the close results of the federal election the month prior and the UK Brexit vote.

Retailers hope the reduction in interest rates in August will have had a positive impact.

"However, should the trend of stagnant growth continue much longer, it becomes likely that the important Christmas shopping period will not be as profitable for retail businesses in 2016," he said.

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