Consumer confidence falls on virus concerns

Consumer confidence fell 3.2 per cent last week, driven by weakness in ‘economic conditions’. The index is now at a five-and-a-half year low.

‘Current economic conditions’ saw a significant decline of 16.6 per cent. In percentage terms, the downturn was the largest since January 2009. ‘Future economic conditions’ declined by 2.9 per cent. Both the subcomponents are well below long-term averages.

In contrast to the weakness in economic conditions, confidence in financial conditions rose. ‘Current financial conditions’ gained 3.8 per cent, while ‘future finances’ gained 0.9 per cent.

‘Time to buy a major household item’ fell by 3.8 per cent. The four-week moving average for ‘inflation expectations’ was stable at 4 per cent.

“The coronavirus impacted consumer confidence in a big way last week, with overall sentiment falling to its lowest level in more than five years,” ANZ Head of Australian Economics David Plank said.

“The virus-induced sell-off in the local and global stock markets and the big drop in theChinese PMI likely contributed to the weakness.”

“The fall seen in ‘current economic conditions’ shows Australians are getting skittish about the wellbeing of the economy, though still quite content about their personal financial circumstances.”

“This divergence remains the most-notable aspect of the confidence survey. So far the negative economic outlook has been a better guide to household spending than more positive financial sentiment.”

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