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Bottoms up from the top - one per cent

[SINGAPORE] The latest published measure of consumer confidence has underscored the emotive issue of Singapore's income gap - with the top one per cent bubbling with optimism.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan Singapore Consumer Confidence Index, released on Wednesday, rose slightly in September from a month ago to 120.7 points.

The slight bump in confidence over the month - up just 1.7 points - showed more hopeful assessment of the financial situations of those polled.

This contrasts with a sharp 16.9-point dive in the index in August compared to a month ago.

The index reading now sits just below the 2014 year-to-date average of 121.1 points, with the report made public early this month.

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Notably, 27 per cent of respondents said that their families are better off financially than a year ago - this is up seven percentage points from a month ago.

More respondents also think financial prospects will improve for their families in a year's time, with 33 per cent of those polled seeing the glass as half full, up five percentage points from a month ago.

But a closer look at the numbers showed that the gains in the perception of current household income from a year ago are concentrated in the highest income quintiles, ANZ said.

Conversely, the confidence from the poorest in Singapore appears to have stagnated.

ANZ said that one possible reason is that most of the wealth of the lower income earners is tied to their houses, and property prices have softened. But the rich are "likely more leveraged towards stronger wage growth".

Daniel Wilson, an ANZ economist who co-authored the report, pointed out separately that while income growth here was stronger on a percentage basis for the lower income, compared to the top earners - at about 35 per cent versus about 25 per cent over the past five years - the dollar gains translate to S$556 and S$5,033 respectively.

"The supply-side restructuring of the economy may be hurting some of the lowest income households as productivity is replacing manpower," ANZ added.

The disparity is less stark with their views of the economy over the next 12 months, though there remains a small skew towards high-income households.

Overall, some 44 per cent of respondents - down two percentage points from a month ago - expect Singapore to have "good times" economically over the next 12 months.

"The fact that less than half of respondents expect Singapore to have 'good times' economically over the next 12 months, is perhaps the strongest economic indicator of how average Singaporeans are reacting to the myriad challenges of current policies aimed at restructuring and reinvigorating the Singaporean economy," said ANZ.

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