3 Mar 2023

Consumer confidence 'bouncing around the bottom', survey finds

11:22 am on 3 March 2023
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Consumers' confidence fell again last month amid high inflation and rising interest rates.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index eased 3 points in February to 79.8 points in what the bank described as a "very subdued" level by any definition.

"While confidence is rising in our Business Outlook survey, consumer confidence could better be described as bouncing round the bottom," ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said.

Consumers' perceptions about their own financial situations fell 10 points to -30 percent, which was the lowest since 2008.

A net 7 percent expected to be better off this time next year, which was unchanged from January.

The proportion of people who believed it was a good time to buy a major household item, which was a key retail indicator, fell 7 points to a net -35 percent, which was the lowest level since the 2020 lockdown, nearly three years ago.

Renters' perceptions of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item fell more than mortgaged households.

"Households don't consider it to be a particularly good time to buy a major household item. And fair enough too: interest rates are high, prices are high, the broader cost of living is high, and the availability of some items will be squeezed by flood replacement demand," Zollner said.

"Card spending data shows consumers are still spending, but they are getting considerably less for their money. More and more households will roll over onto markedly higher mortgage rates as the year rolls on, creating challenges for the retail and hospitality sectors," Zollner said.

She said labour market developments would be a key to how well households weather the current inflationary period with increasing rents and higher mortgage interest payments making life tougher for consumers.

"The RBNZ is forecasting unemployment to rise rapidly as the year goes on, though recently monthly employment indicators have been going the other way," Zollner said.

Consumer inflation expectations were little changed at 5.2 percent.

"The longer inflation expectations of both consumers and businesses remain at levels inconsistent with the inflation target, the more concerned the Reserve Bank will be that high inflation is becoming normalised and anticipated in decision making," she said.

"We see the risks as tilted to the upside around our forecast for the OCR to peak at 5.25 percent."