21 Dec 2015

Optimism rules in festive season

12:59 pm on 21 December 2015

Consumer confidence has bounced off a three-year low, helped by lower interest rates and a better economic outlook.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The Westpac-McDermott Miller consumer confidence index has risen nearly five points to 111 in the three months to December.

A reading above 100 indicates more optimists than pessimists.

Consumers seem to have decided to ignore the weak dairy sector and instead draw confidence from other parts of the economy that are doing well, such as meat, fruit and tourism.

They are also benefitting from lower interest rates and petrol prices.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said, "What stands out is that households' appetite to spend has increased, and low interest rates are clearly playing a role."

Lower interest rates and petrol prices were also lifting sentiment, and the strength of house prices in some parts of the country was making people feel more positive.

Overall, the survey showed consumers were ready to open their wallets for Christmas, with a net 26.4 percent of those surveyed - just over one in four - thinking this was the best time to buy a big-ticket item, such as furnishings and appliances.

However, the economy was expected to grow more slowly next year, Mr Rachhod said. Consumers should be careful about going on a holiday spending binge and should keep debt and borrowing at manageable levels.

Last week the ANZ Bank's business confidence survey for December showed sentiment rising to an eight-month high.

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