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Homes sales rise but retail is still gloom

Australians are slowly becoming more confident about buying a new home but they remain cautious about spending their money on other goods.

New homes sales rose for a second straight month in November while retail sales fell in the same month after a flat October, data released on Wednesday showed.

The number of job vacancies fell to a 30-month low in November, suggesting businesses are reluctant to hire.

There was strong news on the home front, with sales of new houses rising 4.7 per cent in November after a 3.7 per cent rise in October, data from the Housing Industry of Association showed.

"It was the strongest back-to-back lift in home sales in almost three years," Commsec chief economist Craig James said in a statement.

Mr James said it was driven by new state government grants and recent cash rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

Retail spending fell by 0.1 per cent in November although it was still 2.9 per cent higher during 2012 than it was in 2011.

Falls in spending on household goods, clothing and soft goods, and in department stores offset rises in chain stores and other large retailers.

RBC Capital Markets economist Michael Turner said the weak retail data was unlikely to prompt the central bank to cut the cash rate when its board meets on February 5.

Mr Turner said an extended run of patchy domestic data would be needed for the RBA to cut again after its December move.

"This is indeed our base case, with a 25 basis points cut likely in Q2," he said in an investor note.

Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson said consumers remain tentative to spend due to Labor's handling of the economy.

"What the Gillard government fails to realise is that for businesses outside of the mining sector, things are really tough and the economy isn't as good as the Treasurer (Wayne Swan) likes to make out," he said in a statement.

Job vacancies were down 7.9 per cent in November from the same month in 2011, as both the private and public sectors cut jobs.

There were 154,500 job vacancies in the private sector, down 6.9 per cent on the August 2012 quarter and also its lowest level since May 2010.

In the public sector, there were 12,300 vacancies in November, a drop of 7.5 per cent from three months earlier and 29.7 per cent from November 2011.

Both federal and state governments have been cutting jobs, with February 2004 the last time there was a lower level of public sector vacancies.