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Consumer confidence bounces back as wallets stay open: ANZ

Consumer confidence bounces back as wallets stay open: ANZ

By Jenny Ruth

Nov. 30 (BusinessDesk) - Consumer confidence lifted back to average levels in November after broadly trending lower since March.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan headline index of consumer confidence lifted four points to 118.6 points in the latest month – a reading of 100 means pessimistic and optimistic consumers are balanced.

Within that index, the current conditions index eased a point with a net 10 percent of consumers feeling financially better off than a year ago. But the future conditions component rose six points with a net 26 percent expecting to be better off in a year’s time.

A net 32 percent of consumers think now is a good time to buy a major household item, down a point from last month, while perceptions regarding the next year’s economic outlook lifted eight points to a net seven percent. The five-year outlook lifted four points to a net 18 percent.

“Consumers are feeling pretty resilient, with confidence bouncing back to sit around historically average levels,” says ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner.

“Confidence about the future remains a bit further under par” but the proportion of those thinking it’s a good time to buy major household goods is holding up, Zollner says. That suggests spenders aren’t "closing their wallets just yet.”

“A resilient consumer is, of course, good for near-term economic growth but a degree of prudence is warranted too,” given consumers remain highly indebted.

Household debt has flattened off at very high levels – 167 percent of household disposable income – and any improvement from here “will be a long, slow grind,” Zollner says.

“The estimated savings rate, while imprecisely estimated and prone to large revisions, is currently negative, suggesting little evidence of a precautionary saving motive in action.”

ANZ’s combined consumer and business confidence composite gauge “continues to suggest a slowing in GDP growth by year end,” she says.

“We suspect business sentiment indicators are overstating the power of the growth headwinds at present.”

Zollner estimates GDP growth should hold up between 2.5-3 percent. Given high debt levels, she says consumer retrenchment is a risk that could exacerbate any slowdown but is unlikely to be the catalyst for a slowdown.


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