Harvey Norman’s Sales Drop 4% After Stimulus Ends

Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd., Australia’s biggest electrical and furniture retailer, posted a 4 percent drop in domestic fourth-quarter sales after the government withdrew its stimulus spending.

Revenue from outlets open at least a year fell 3.4 percent in the three months ended June, the Sydney-based company said in a statement today. Full-year sales, including New Zealand and Europe, rose 0.8 percent to A$6.03 billion ($5.4 billion).

Australia handed out more than A$10 billion in cash to households last year to drive demand and help the nation skirt the worst of the global recession. Consumer spending has also been curbed in 2010 by increased borrowing costs, with the nation’s central bank raising interest rates six times from October to May.

“Computer sales weakened as the company cycled the small business tax break on top of the cash stimulus,” Harvey Norman said in the statement. “Furniture and bedding continue to take market share despite the industry experiencing a slow-down with the dampened housing market.”

Harvey Norman shares fell 3 percent to A$3.54 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney, their biggest decline since June 7 on a closing basis. The stock has shed 16 percent this year compared with 7.9 percent decline in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index.

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