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Australian consumer sentiment falls in September: survey

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Australian consumers turned pessimistic in September despite signs of revival in the housing market as concerns about the near-term economic outlook weighed, according to one confidence gauge.

[SYDNEY] Australian consumers turned pessimistic in September despite signs of revival in the housing market as concerns about the near-term economic outlook weighed, according to one confidence gauge.

Wednesday's survey showed the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank index of consumer sentiment slipped 1.7 per cent in September, after gaining 3.6 per cent in August.

The index was down 2.3 per cent from a year earlier, and at 98.2 indicated pessimists outnumbered optimists.

The survey of 1,200 people will be a disappointment for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which cut interest rates in both June and July in part to support consumer demand.

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The survey's index of economic conditions for the next 12 months fell 3.1 per cent.

Respondents were also less upbeat on their own circumstances. A measure of the state of family finances compared with a year ago eased 2.5 per cent, while the outlook for the next 12 months fell 2.2 per cent.

In a negative sign for retail sales, a measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item fell 2.8 per cent, reversing last month's gains.

The "time to buy a dwelling" index declined 2.9 per cent from August thought it was up 19 per cent from a year ago, with Sydney and Melbourne leading the recovery in the residential property market after two years of weakness.

House prices in the two cities have stabilised in the last couple of months, with demand at auctions improving markedly. Data out earlier this week showed mortgage approvals jumped in July.

REUTERS