Confidence levels steady for 7 months

(Australian Associated Press)


Consumer confidence has barely shifted over the last seven months as the uncertainty created by the US presidential election and steady interest rates appear to counter rising commodity prices and economic prospects.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment fell 1.1 per cent to 101.3 points in November, down from 102.4 points in October.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans says the index has remained in a very tight band for several months, with six of the last seven readings above 100, indicating there are more optimists about the economy than pessimists.

In the last month, consumer confidence was influenced by share market weakness caused by the US election, a spectacular surge in coking coal prices, a disappointing jobs report and the Reserve Bank keeping interest rates on hold, he said.

“Markets had been giving a decent chance to a November rate cut in earlier months, so the fall in confidence amongst respondents holding a mortgage of 3.1 per cent was somewhat understandable,” Mr Evans said.

Of particular concern is the results of respondents’ Christmas spending intentions, he said.

The measure of those expecting to spend more this Christmas compared to those expecting to spend less was minus 20.1 per cent, down from minus 13 per cent in 2015.

“That is around the average since we started asking the question in 2009,” Mr Evans said.

“That is a disappointing result given the promising improvement in spending plans in 2015.”

Consumers were less confident about the jobs market, the housing market, their current and future family finances, and economic conditions over next five months and the next five years.


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