SYDNEY, April 9 (Reuters) - A measure of Australian consumer sentiment inched higher for the first time in five months in April as households became more optimistic on the near-term outlook for both the economy and their own finances.
The survey of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank showed the index of consumer sentiment rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in April from March, when it fell 0.7 percent.
The index reading of 99.7 was down 4.9 percent on April last year, but that was an improvement on March when it was down 10.0 percent. A reading below 100 means pessimists still exceed optimists.
While modest, the improvement does suggest sentiment has stabilised after a run of negative news on manufacturing job losses in recent weeks.
The survey showed consumers were a little less worried about keeping their jobs, with expectations of unemployment falling by 3.2 percent.
Respondents were more upbeat on the outlook for the economy over the next 12 months, with that index jumping 10.5 percent in April, from March.
Measures of family finances compared to a year ago improved by 6.7 percent, while the outlook for finances over the next 12 months rose 2.2 percent.
In contrast the outlook for the economy over the next five years slipped a further 4.2 percent. An index of whether it was a good or bad time to buy a major household item also slipped 8.7 percent in April.
The index tracking views on whether it was time to buy a dwelling fell by 3.9 percent, perhaps because sharply rising prices are making homes less affordable. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)