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NZ consumer confidence improves as household pessimism dwindles

Monday 17th December 2012

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New Zealand consumer confidence rose as households' pessimism about the state of their own affairs was the least gloomy in five years.

The Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index rose 8.6 points to 111.1 in the December quarter, the highest level since September last year. A reading above 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists. The present conditions index rose 6.2 points to 108.5 and the future conditions index advanced 10.2 points to 112.9.

A net 12 percent of households said their situation has deteriorated over the past year, in the least downbeat reading since December 2007.

"Households continue to be less upbeat about their finances than they were before the 2008/2009 recession, and their attitudes towards spending and debt repayment remain relatively cautious," Westpac economist Felix Delbruck said in his report. "This is a change from recent trends that will be welcome news to retailers."

Today's survey is in line with last week's ANZ Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence index which showed a pick-up in expectations for households in the coming year, and the wider economy in the coming five years.

A net 8 percent of respondents in the Westpac survey said they expect their financial situation to improve in the coming year, up from a net 2 percent in the September quarter. Households are more willing to buy big-ticket items at a net 29 percent agreeing that it was, compared to a net 27 percent three months earlier.

McDermott Miller managing director Richard Miller said the strongest improvement in consumer sentiment has been among middle income, young and middle-aged male consumers in metropolitan areas.

"The general lift in consumer confidence augurs well for retailers in December and the New Year, particularly in the metropolitan areas," he said.

A net six percent of households expect the economy will stay moribund in the coming year, though a net 37 percent see mainly good times over a five-year horizon.

The survey was conducted between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10 with a sample size of 1,577 and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

BusinessDesk.co.nz

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