SYDNEY, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A measure of Australian consumer confidence took a spill in January as respondents turned gloomy on the economy and their own finances at the start of the new year.
Wednesday’s survey showed the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank index of consumer sentiment slid 4.7 percent in January, from February when it rose 0.1 percent. That was the sharpest monthly decline in over three years.
The index, compiled from a survey of 1,200 people, was down 5.3 percent from a year earlier at 99.6, meaning pessimists now slightly outnumbered optimists.
“Confidence has come under pressure from a number of fronts including a continued slide in house prices; disappointing updates on Australia’s economic growth; ongoing concerns around global trade wars and political uncertainty,” said Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan.
He noted the January survey should be treated with some caution as the index was adjusted to remove a regular boost to sentiment over the holiday season.
Weakness was broad-based across the survey. It’s index of family finances compared to a year ago slipped 5.9 percent, while the outlook for the next 12 months eased 3.1 percent.
The measure of economic conditions for the next 12 months fell 7.8 percent, while the measure for the next five years dropped 5.9 percent.
The survey’s measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item also eased 1.3 percent, another sign of the tough times in retail industry.
Respondents were bearish on the outlook for house prices, with that index falling 4.1 percent to its lowest since 2009 at 95.9.
Yet the drop in prices was also improving affordability and demand. Its index of whether it was a good time to buy a dwelling climbed to a four-year high of 114.8. (Reporting by Wayne Cole Editing by Shri Navaratnam)