Die "Sparpakete" zur Konsolidierung der öffentlichen Haushalte haben die Einkommensentwicklung der Österreicher in den Jahren
1996 und 1997 deutlich gedämpft. Obwohl die privaten Haushalte darauf mit einer signifikanten Verringerung ihrer Sparneigung
reagierten (d. h. ein größerer Teil ihres Einkommens floß in den Konsum) und dadurch den restriktiven fiskalischen Effekt
abfederten, stieg die private Konsumnachfrage in diesen beiden Jahren nur mäßig. Aufgrund der Konjunkturerholung und des Wegfalls
der dämpfenden Effekte der Fiskalpolitik nahm im 1. Halbjahr 1998 der Konsum der privaten Haushalte wieder kräftig zu, und
die Sparquote erhöhte sich. Von der günstigen Entwicklung der Konsumnachfrage der Inländer sowie der Besserung im Tourismus
profitierte der heimische Einzelhandel. Für das Weihnachtsgeschäft zeichnen sich heuer Zuwächse ab.
Strong Growth of Consumer Spending Along with Rising Savings Ratio. Christmas Sales Expected to Go Up
The austerity budgets adopted in 1996 and 1997 to consolidate the public household put a brake on income development in Austria.
Although private households reacted with a significant weakening of their propensity to save (i.e., a larger share of disposable
income went into private consumption), thus compensating for the restrictive fiscal effect, private consumer demand grew only
moderately during that two-year period. Following a cyclical recovery and the elimination of the dampening effect of fiscal
policy, consumer spending by private households again picked up strongly during the first half of 1998. The savings ratio
went up at the same time. The improved situation in tourism also had a favorable impact on tourism. As for the 1998 Christmas
season, business is expected to be better than last year.
According to first estimates, private consumer spending totaled ATS 699 billion during the first half of 1998, up by 2.8 percent
from the year before. Corrected for inflation, consumption rose by 1.8 percent. A lively pace of economic activity, which
was no longer counteracted by a restrictive fiscal policy, resulted in a favorable development of incomes and a relatively
strong increase of consumer spending. At the same time, the savings ratio rose by about 1 percentage point.
Thanks to increased consumer spending by Austrians, combined with growth in tourism, the retail sector reported satisfactory
results for the first half of 1998 (+2.5 percent in real terms). Growth was strongest in consumer durables (+3.9 percent in
real terms), as demand for such goods reacts readily to cyclical fluctuations. Sales increased even more sharply in the wholesale
sector, mainly as a result of the favorable development of industrial production and exports.
While trade prices rose only moderately during the first half of 1998, productivity increased markedly. It appears that growing
competition forces businesses to streamline their operations. Hence, employment growth was negligible, except in the part-time
and less-than-part-time occupations.
Whereas the wholesale sector followed the downward trend of the economic cycle in July and August, retail trade continued
to pick up, a fact which gives rise to considerable optimism in view of the Christmas season, which is of particular importance
for some sectors of the economy, as can be seen from the high December peaks. Fourth-quarter sales in excess of the average
level of sales of the first three quarters of the year may be taken as an indicator of the volume of Christmas business in
a given sector. In 1997, this amount totaled approximately ATS 19 billion (excluding V.A.T.). Given the fact that this indicator
would be distorted by special influences, such as those observable in recent years under the impact of fiscal measures, WIFO
based its forecast of Christmas spending on a time-series analysis. This approach is based on the relevant factors influencing
retail development (trend, cyclical development, season, calendar dates, fiscal measures, etc.). Thus, Christmas retail sales
are expected to grow by about 2 percent in real terms in 1998 (according to WIFO definition: December sales in excess of "normal"