NZ consumer confidence on a high

New Zealand consumer confidence improved slightly in the first half of the year, despite rising interest rates, with Kiwi shoppers still near the top of Nielsen's global online survey.

New Zealand improved one place to fourth from the previous survey in late 2006, despite a one-point fall to 120 on the consumer confidence index.

However, sentiment could decline as consumers focus on ridding themselves of debt, said Nielsen New Zealand managing director Steve Mitchell.

Nearly half of the 500 New Zealand participants said they were allocating spare cash to pay off debts, credit cards and loans, up a point from the last survey in December.

Other financial priorities included saving, holidays, and home improvement and decorating.

"Kiwis are increasingly concerned with paying off debt, which may indicate that confidence levels will decrease further in future surveys," Mitchell said.

"It will be interesting to see the impact interest rate rises and the changing labour market will have on confidence levels going forward."

The number of New Zealanders who thought it was a good time to buy slipped two points to 58 per cent.

That was well above the global average of 40 per cent.

Job prospects over the next year looked good or excellent for 84 per cent; the global average was 52 per cent, and 77 per cent believed their personal finances would be good or excellent (58 per cent globally).

Consumers continued to cite health and the economy equally at 40 per cent as their major concerns over the coming six months.

"The resilient housing market, as well as the continuing employee job market, may have influenced the continued confidence in this period," Mitchell said.

Nielsen conducts the survey twice a year, polling over 26,000 internet users in 47 countries. The latest survey was conducted in May.

- NZPA

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