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Ask families if their finances have improved over the past year and they are likely to feel perky. Australians gave more positive answers to that question this month than last, and more positive answers than they did a year ago.
Ask about the economy and their answers are little changed over recent months.
But ask about family finances over the coming year and the answers are so overwhelmingly negative you need to go right back to 1990 to find feelings so bad.
Just 18.5 per cent of those surveyed in this month’s Westpac Melbourne Institute consumer survey expect their finances to improve in the year ahead.A much bigger 32.2 per cent expect them to get worse.
The gap - 13.7 percentage points - is the widest since the eve of Australia’s last recession in November 1990, more than twenty years ago.
“This is strikingly negative,” says Westpac economist Matthew Hassan. “To be more negative about future family finances now than during the global financial crisis is quite surprising.”
Mr Hassan thinks anxiety about the carbon tax is part of the explanation and points to special questions asked about perceptions of news. A relatively high proportion of of those surveyed reported hearing news about tax. The proportion who found the news positive was dwarfed by the proportion who found it negative...
Perceptions of international economic news were even worse. Almost everyone who reported hearing news from overseas found it negative.
Treasurer Wayne Swan will tell a Euromoney bond forum in Sydney this morning the most immediate source of uncertainty is the outcome of the Greek elections in three days time.
He will say there is no escaping the conclusion that Europe has a long and painful road ahead, with the most likely scenario rolling crises and volatility.
With the global outlook uncertain and markets punishing nations without a credible fiscal plan, it is “critical” Australia maintains budget discipline.
The overall Westpac consumer confidence failed to bounce after the Reserve Bank interest rate cut delivered at the start of this month, climbing a barely-measurable 0.4 per cent to be down 5.6 per cent over the year.
Views about whether now is a good time to spend improved. Australians were 6 per cent more likely to feel it was a good time to buy a car as in March and 2 per cent likely to believe it was a good time to buy a house.
In today's Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Age
. Carbon tax angst. It's worrying the Reserve Bank
. Governor Stevens: We need more confidence
. The carbon tax will cost how much?