Australia consumer sentiment slips further in Feb -survey

SYDNEY Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:36pm EST

SYDNEY Feb 12 (Reuters) - A measure of Australian consumer sentiment slipped for a third month in February as households fretted about the economic outlook and family finances.

The survey of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank showed its index of consumer sentiment fell a seasonally adjusted 3.0 percent in February from January, when it had fallen by 1.7 percent.

The index reading of 100.2 was the lowest since July, and it was down 7.5 percent on February last year.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said the result was surprisingly weak.

"The theme from this survey appears to be that households are particularly worried about the future," he said.

"We suspect the run of 'bad news' around the motor vehicle industry, other manufacturers and Qantas may have rattled consumers. There may also be heightened concerns about what lies ahead with the May Budget."

The survey showed the largest decline was in the sub-index measuring the economic outlook for the year ahead, which dropped 7.1 percent. The index for the next five years fell 4.6 percent.

The gauge of family finances compared to a year ago fell 4.1 percent, while the index for whether it was a good time to buy a major household item declined 1.9 percent.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) last week dropped its bias to ease policy further. (Reporting by Ian Chua; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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