New Zealand consumers kicked off the year in a better mood, but still appear to be "listless and fickle", according to ANZ New Zealand data.
Consumer confidence climbed to 116.1 this month from 108.4 in December according to the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence index, though seasonal adjustments account for the lift.
The current conditions index rose 11.3 points to 113.8, while the future conditions index gained 5.3 points to 117.6. That's the narrowest gap between expectations and reality since early 2009.
"Consumers appear to be taking a wait and see stance," ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said in his commentary. "We see little in this month's survey that flags a pending change in listless and fickle consumer spending behaviour."
Households have been clamping down on spending since the nation clawed out of its deepest recession in a decade in 2010, and that tepid demand has put pressure on retailers to heavily discount stock to attract spending.
Of the 2042 people surveyed, a net 6 percent think they are worse off than a year ago, down from a net 10 percent in December, while a net 32 percent expect to be better off in 2013, up from a net 23 percent last month.
A net 2 percent of respondents think New Zealand's economy will experience more bad times in the coming 12 months, down from a net 6 per cent in the last survey, while a net 23 percent predict more good times over the coming five years, up from a net 20 percent in December.
A net 34 per cent of people think it's a good time to buy a big-ticket item, up from a net 15 per cent in December.
ANZ's Bagrie said there was a sharp jump in consumers' expectations for the average rate of inflation over the next two years to 4.4 per cent, from 3.5 per cent in the last survey.
"This is the strongest reading since we started sampling three years ago," Bagrie said.
They survey pre-dates today's official statistics showing inflation fell in the December quarter by 0.3 per cent and that 2011 annual inflation was subdued at 1.8 per cent, well short of the 2.6 per cent picked by market economists.