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Australia consumer sentiment flat in Jan: survey

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 07:55

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A measure of Australia's consumer sentiment barely budged in January as pessimists continued to outnumber optimists even as people thought it was a good time to splash out on big-ticket items, a survey showed on Wednesday.

[SYDNEY] A measure of Australia's consumer sentiment barely budged in January as pessimists continued to outnumber optimists even as people thought it was a good time to splash out on big-ticket items, a survey showed on Wednesday.

Wednesday's survey of 1,200 people from the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank found consumer sentiment edged up just 0.1 per cent in January, failing to recover much from December's 3.4 per cent drop.

That left the index at 97.4, a meagre 0.2 per cent higher than in January last year.

"The absence of a rebound in January is a disappointing result, particularly when one factors in the cumulative 10 per cent gain for Australian equities over the past two months and, to a lesser extent, a nascent improvement in the pace of job creation," said Westpac senior economist, Elliot Clarke.

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He thought there could be a lingering drag from news in December that the economy shrank by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter, the first contraction since 2011.

A weekly survey of consumers from ANZ and Roy Morgan has shown a rebound in sentiment at the start of the year, but that was not replicated in the Westpac poll.

The sub-indices in the Westpac survey were also very erratic in January.

The measure of family finances compared to a year ago dropped a sharp 7.6 per cent, but that for family finances over the next 12 months rose 0.3 per cent.

Expectations for the economic outlook over the next 12 months bounced 2.5 per cent, but the assessment of economic conditions for the next five years fell 1.4 per cent.

One bright spot for retailers was the measure of whether this was a good time to buy major household items which rebounded by 4.9 per cent in January.

By demographics, all the weakness came in those who rented their homes, while sentiment for those with mortgages or who owned outright rose sharply.

REUTERS

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