Against a backdrop of rising share prices and a booming Auckland housing market, investor confidence reached its highest level in more than two years during the first quarter of 2013, according to research by ASB.
Investor confidence reached a net 18 per cent during the first three months of this year, which was a 5 percentage point increase on the previous quarter and the strongest result since late 2010.
The bank's Investor Confidence Index - based on 720 online interviews - also found Cantabrians are becoming increasingly bullish, with investor confidence in that part of the country higher than the rest of New Zealand for the first time since 2011.
ASB's head of wealth advisory, Jonathan Beale, said the Government's partial privatisation programme for state-owned enterprises, a rising local sharemarket, rising house prices in Auckland and the ramping up of the Christchurch rebuild were all factors driving the increased overall confidence levels.
"Kiwi investors have over the past few years regarded the sharemarket with an air of caution in comparison to some other investment classes such as investment property and term deposits," Beale said. "However, it appears that public awareness surrounding recent Government SOE share offers has put the sharemarket firmly back on retail investors' radar this quarter."
The NZX-50 index has risen more than 13 per cent so far this year.
"We've seen a lot of people moving into New Zealand and Australian shares for the yield," Beale said. "New Zealand shares pay good dividends and at the same time bank deposit [interest] rates have been low."
Eleven per cent of respondents expected shares to provide the best return on investment, according to the index. That was well behind rental property, with 19 per cent of respondents thinking an investment in bricks and mortar would provide the best return.
The price of the average home in Auckland has risen by around 12 per cent over the past year.
Beale said he didn't think there was a risk of investors becoming over- confident. "We're still a way off the dizzy heights of 2009 when confidence got up to [a net] 30 per cent."
Meanwhile, a survey by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce found confidence among firms in the city continued to rise in the current quarter, with a net 50 per cent of companies believing the New Zealand business environment would improve, up from a net 37 per cent in the last quarter.
The survey also found a net 56 per cent of Auckland business owners thought their own business situation would improve. "There are still challenges, like obtaining finance and finding the right employees, but things are improving," said the chamber's chief executive, Michael Barnett.