19 Dec 2018

Lower fuel prices boosts consumer confidence

12:14 pm on 19 December 2018

Consumer confidence has bounced back from a six-year low, with households buoyed by falling petrol prices and a steady housing market.

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New Zealanders think it's a good time to spend on big ticket items according to Westpac's latest consumer confidence survey. Photo: 123RF

Westpac's McDermott Miller quarterly consumer confidence index gained nearly six points to 109.1, close to its long run average.

The survey showed households feel better off about the current and long term economic outlooks, and less pessimistic about their financial position.

Westpac's senior economist Satish Ranchhod said there were clear reasons for the lift in sentiment.

"The first is the fall in petrol prices in recent months, which has put money back into the pockets of many households. Mortgage rates have also taken a step down since our last survey, and there's been a related firming in housing markets in some parts of the country," he said.

Mr Ranchhod said the number of respondents thinking it's a good time to buy a big ticket item, such as vehicles, furniture and appliances, was at its highest level in four years.

The improvement was particularly strong in Auckland, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, but was noticeable in virtually all the country, and all age and income groups.

Mr Ranchhod said there was strength in the economy with a healthy labour market, government spending, and low interest rates and inflation which bodes well for next year.

"If you look at the broader picture for the economy we're reasonably upbeat about the outlook for 2019," he said.

However, he cautioned that the international environment contained risks in the United States and UK.