Australian consumer confidence clouded by COVID-19 in Jan -survey

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SYDNEY, Jan 20 (Reuters) - A measure of Australian consumer sentiment slipped from a decade high in January as new outbreaks of COVID-19 in Sydney and Brisbane spooked people, though the spread has now been contained with relatively few cases and no deaths.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment released on Wednesday fell 4.5% in January, from December, when it rose 4.1%.

The index is still 41% above a nadir hit back in April when COVID-19 lockdowns were at their height, and 14.6% up on January last year. At 107.0, the index implies optimists clearly outnumber pessimists.

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"A pullback in the Index was to be expected," said Westpac's chief economist, Bill Evans.

"Since the last survey we have seen domestic border closures; the emergence of Covid clusters in some states; and the sharp upswing in Covid cases overseas, notably the U.S. and the UK."

The survey measure of family finances compared with a year ago dropped 7%, while that for finances over the next 12 months eased a minor 0.3%. The outlook for the economy over the next 12 months fell 8.3%, and that for the next five years lost 4.5%.

A measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item dipped 2.8%.

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Reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney Editing by Matthew Lewis

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