Consumers positive about NZ economy

Consumer confidence rose in January, despite turmoil in global markets. Photo / Chris Gorman
Consumer confidence rose in January, despite turmoil in global markets. Photo / Chris Gorman

New Zealand consumer confidence gained in January, with its stability notable considering the turbulent state of the global economy, according to the latest ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index.

After dipping 4 points last month, the index rose 3 points to 121.4 in January, in line with the historical average of 119. Current expectations rose 4 points, while future expectations rose 2 points, with the former a positive sign for spending trends, ANZ's chief economist Cameron Bagrie said.

"The New Year has started horribly for global financial markets, with commodity prices and equities being thumped - but so far it hasn't affected local sentiment," Bagrie said.

"It's obviously a serious risk for our economy if the turmoil continues, but developments aren't all bad news for consumers - lower oil prices will feed through into retail petrol prices in time, leaving more money in pockets, and lower interest rates are freeing up cash too."

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Expectations for the economy over the year ahead were unchanged at +6, in line with its historical average, while expectations further out to five years ahead were also unchanged at +17, which is slightly below the historical average.

A net 8 per cent of respondents feel financially better off than a year ago, up 2 points, while expectations 12 months ahead rose to net 32 per cent from 26 per cent last month.

More consumers thought it was a good time to buy a major household item, with the reading improving to a net 44 per cent from December's 38 per cent. Inflation expectations fell slightly to 3 per cent, down from 3.1 per cent in December.

"The benefit of lower interest rates is still flowing into the economy," Bagrie said.

"Regional house prices are lifting sharply. The economy clearly regained momentum in late 2015, such that job creation has picked up strongly. Competitive pressures continue to swat away the inflationary impact of a lower New Zealand dollar, keeping tradable prices low; that's good for bargain hunting."

Canterbury was the most confident region, followed by Auckland. House price expectations in New Zealand's largest city moderated from a 6.5 per cent predicted increase to a 4 per cent prediction.

Bagrie said there were "respectable prospects" for the New Zealand economy heading into 2016, and New Zealand has the forward momentum needed to deal with turbulence, though he warned that confidence should not turn into complacency.

"As a commodity exporting nation, weak global commodity prices and slowing demand do not spell great prospects for our national earning potential. And as a debtor nation, an escalation in global credit market pressures could affect domestic funding costs. We are watching these developments closely. But as we sit here today, they are risks rather than a foregone conclusion," he said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand manufacturing activity rose to a 14-month high in December, with an uptick in new orders pointing to further improvements ahead.

The BNZ-BusinessNZ performance of manufacturing index rose to a seasonally adjusted 56.7 last month from 54.9 in November, and was at its highest level since October 2014. A reading of 50 separates expansion from contraction.

- BusinessDesk

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