Australian consumers soured by politics, mortgage hikes-survey
SYDNEY, Sept 12 (Reuters) - A measure of Australian consumer
confidence fell sharply in September as political instability in
Canberra and hikes in mortgage rates by most of the big banks
soured the public mood.
The Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank index of
consumer sentiment fell 3.0 percent in September from August
when it had already dropped 2.3 percent.
Wednesday's index, compiled from a survey of 1,200 people,
was up 2.7 percent on September last year at 100.5, meaning
optimists only just outnumbered pessimists.
"This is the weakest sentiment read since November last
year," said Westpac Chief Economist Bill Evans.
"The detail suggests that confidence has been affected by
increases in mortgage interest rates; political instability and
household budget pressures."
Westpac, CBA and ANZ all raised their variable home loan
rates in the past few weeks, citing the need to protect profit
margins in the face of higher wholesale funding costs.
The impact was clear on survey respondents paying off a
mortgage, with their sentiment sliding 5.6 percent in September.
In Canberra, the ruling Liberal Party ousted former Prime
Minister Malcolm Turn bull late last month and replaced him with
former Treasurer Scott Morrison, just the latest bout of
internecine warfare in the party.
As a result, sentiment among Liberal coalition supporters
dived 6.4 percent in the month, while that for supporters of the
Labor opposition climbed 4 percent.
The mood also turned darker on the economy and finances. The
survey's measure of economic conditions for the next 12 months
eased 0.1 4.9 percent, and the measure for the next five years
lost 2.2 percent.
The index of family finances compared to a year ago and the
outlook for the next 12 months both fell 3.6 percent. Likewise,
the measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major
household item dropped 3.3 percent.
The bright spot in the survey was around consumer views on
the labour market which showed a significant improvement across
all the major states, said Evans.
"Improving conditions in the mining sector are starting to
provide a lift in these states," he added. "A more evenly spread
growth profile is starting to emerge across Australia."
(Reporting by Wayne Cole
Editing by Eric Meijer)
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