[SYDNEY] A measure of Australian consumer sentiment surged in August as people became more optimistic about the economic outlook and their own finances, a surprisingly upbeat result that repaired two months of disappointment.
The survey of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank showed its index of consumer sentiment jumped a seasonally adjusted 7.8 per cent in August, from July when it fell 3.2 per cent.
The index reading of 99.5 was 1 per cent higher than in August last year and showed optimists almost matched pessimists. "This is a very surprising result," said Westpac chief economist, Bill Evans. He noted moves of this magnitude usually followed a specific event, such as a government budget. "There is no comparable event they may have triggered this response although the solution may lie with international issues and housing," he said.
Confidence in July looked to have been damaged by concerns over events in Greece and China, which had since eased.
The details of the survey were overwhelmingly positive.
The measure of family finances compared to a year ago jumped 15.5 per cent, perhaps boosted by rising home values. The outlook for the next 12 months improved by 3.9 per cent.
The survey's measure of economic conditions for the next 12 months climbed 13.4 per cent, while that for the next 5 years rose 5.8 per cent.
In a bullish development for retail spending, the index for whether it was a good time to buy a major household item gained 3.7 per cent.
Respondents were also more positive on the outlook for housing, with the index for whether it was a good time to buy a home bouncing by 8.2 per cent.