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Australian Online Shopping Slows on Greece, IPad Lull

Australia’s online spending is showing a “clear slowdown” as fears over the Greek economy and a lull between new models of Apple Inc.’s iPad choke off the appetites of consumers, National Australia Bank Ltd. said.

Spending on household goods and electronics shrank 5 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest slowdown for the category in 16 months of records, the bank said in a report today. A total of A$11.1 billion ($11 billion) was spent online in the 12 months through April, it said.

Consumers were “closing their wallets” as fears over the fallout from the crisis in the euro zone economies made households reluctant to make large purchases, Alan Oster, NAB’s Melbourne-based chief economist, told reporters on a conference call today. An April drop-off in sales of the new iPad, whose first worldwide sales were in Australia March 16, may also have contributed to the decline, he said.

“Discretionary retail, particularly online, has basically hit some significant slowdown,” Oster said.

Annual growth in online spending slowed to 16 percent in April from the 19 percent pace recorded in March, the report said. Purchases from websites amounted to about 8.3 percent of all non-food retail spending, it said.

A recent decline in the value of the Australian dollar, which has fallen 8.5 percent against its U.S. counterpart since March 1, may slow purchases from overseas websites, Oster said.

“Clearly as the dollar comes down there may be an element of that,” he told reporters.

Australian consumer confidence has had a negative reading in seven of the past 10 months, indicating pessimists outweigh optimists, according to a survey by Westpac Banking Corp. and the Melbourne Institute.

Woolworths Ltd., Australia’s largest retailer, fell 1.6 percent to close at A$26.26, the biggest drop since March 19. Premier Investments Ltd., the largest operator of small-format specialty stores, declined 1.4 percent to A$4.78, the lowest level since Jan. 27.

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