Consumer confidence recovered in the latest Westpac McDermott Miller quarterly survey, but remains weak by historical standards.

The survey's index rose 2.7 points to 102.5, putting it back to where it was in March - any reading above 100 indicates more optimists than pessimists.

But the improvement was stronger among the survey's forward-looking indicators than those reflecting the here-and-now, which have proven the more relevant to actual spending.

A net 22 per cent of respondents consider their own financial situation worse than it was a year ago, up from a net 17 per cent three months ago and the lowest reading for this indictor since mid-2009.


Offsetting that is a rise in those who consider it a good time to buy a major household item. It rose for the third quarter in a row to a net 27 per cent considering it a good time to buy, the second highest since June 2010.

"We suspect this reflects low prices," said Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens.

The high kiwi dollar had brought down the cost of imported goods, to the point that appliances fell 0.4 per cent over the year ended June, furniture fell 1.4 per cent and audio-visual equipment and computers 14.5 per cent.

Car prices on the other hand rose 2.8 per cent over the year.

Falling mortgage rates and a general easing in banks' lending conditions might also have played a role, he said.

"While it's concerning that overall confidence remains so low, the improvement in people's reported willingness to spend has gone hand in hand with a genuine pickup in retail activity in the first half of this year," Stephens said.

"The steady improvement in this part of the survey suggests that spending should continue to see modest upward momentum."

People's expectations for their own financial position a year ahead have improved from a net 1 per cent expecting it to get worse to a net 2 per cent expecting improvement.

A net 23 per cent expect bad times for the economy over the year ahead, compared with a net 29 per cent pessimistic in the previous survey, with a net 29 per cent optimistic about the outlook five years from now.