New Zealand consumers were still in reasonable heart this month as concerns about the economic outlook subsided.
The ANZ Roy Morgan consumer confidence index was unchanged at 117.6 in September, holding around its long-run average. Optimism about their present situation slipped with the current conditions index down 3.3 points to 120.2, while the outlook brightened as the future conditions index increased 2.2 points to 115.9.
“Perceptions of current conditions remain strong, but there is some caution about the future, particularly around the broader economy rather than respondents’ own financial situations,” ANZ Bank New Zealand economist Liz Kendall said. “Households remain a little cautious about the outlook but the gap versus current conditions has narrowed.”
Consumers have remained relatively upbeat despite slumping business confidence. Firms are nervous about new regulatory settings whereas low-income households have received targeted government income support.
Business confidence improved this month as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched a charm offensive with a new working group for firms to have her ear. Sentiment among firms is still weak.
Kendall said the composite confidence gauge, which combines the two surveys, indicates slowing economic growth. Government data last week showed gross domestic product grew 1 percent in the second quarter, beating expectations.
“The headwinds are real: the growth drivers of house price appreciation and population growth are fading and commodity prices appear to have peaked,” Kendall said. “But monetary conditions and fiscal policy are stimulatory and barring a global shock we suspect the economy will muddle through.”
Today’s survey showed consumers are less likely to buy major household appliances, with a net 29 percent of the 1,009 respondents saying it’s a good time to buy, the lowest level in three years. A net 12 percent said they were better off now than a year ago, unchanged from August, while a net 27 percent expect to be doing better in a year’s time, up from 26 percent.
Consumers were still cool on the wider economic outlook, with a net 4 percent expecting good times in the coming year compared to 2 percent in August. A net 18 percent anticipate better economic conditions over the next five years, up from 13 percent.
Inflation expectations were lower with prices seen rising at an annual pace of 3.4 percent over the next two years, down from 4 percent in August, while annual house price inflation expectations were unchanged at 3.4 percent.