Australian consumers unnerved by market jitters

An investor looks at a board displaying stock prices at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in Sydney October 21, 2016. — Reuters pic
An investor looks at a board displaying stock prices at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in Sydney October 21, 2016. — Reuters pic

SYDNEY, Feb 14 — A measure of Australian consumer sentiment slipped from four-year highs in February as wild swings in global financial markets seemed to spook some.

A Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank survey of 1,200 people published this morning said its index of consumer sentiment dipped 2.3 per cent in February from January, when it rose 1.8 per cent.

The index was still up 3.1 per cent on February last year at 102.7, meaning optimists outnumbered pessimists.

Westpac’s chief economist, Bill Evans, noted the survey was conducted in a week where global share markets fell sharply.

“Extensive media coverage of these developments would have unnerved respondents on two fronts — the impact on their own financial position and concerns for general global stability,” he said.

As a result, the survey’s barometer of economic conditions over the next 12 months fell 4.5 per cent, while the outlook for the next five years dropped 3.1 per cent.

The measure of family finances compared to a year ago slipped 4.7 per cent, while the outlook for the next 12 months eased 0.7 per cent.

The index of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item still managed to edge up 0.9 per cent.

Consumers were also feeling more secure in their jobs, with that measure at its best level in more than six years. — Reuters

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