Confidence levels encouraging: ANZ
Seasonal factors including the "back to work" effect contributed to a slight dip in consumer confidence this month, according to a bank survey.
The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan index dropped to 133 in February from 135.8 last month but that degree of movement was "nothing more than noise", ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said.
A seasonally adjusted estimate showed a very small rise, hitting a seven-year high.
Bagrie said the bank was encouraged by the continued elevated levels of the index.
"It's now well flagged that interest rates are set to move up - a typical bugbear for sentiment," he said.
"However, that dynamic looks to be being usurped by the combination of rising asset prices (namely house prices, albeit at a slowing rate of increase), firming employment prospects, more people participating in the labour force (the participation rate hit a five-year high in the December quarter), a falling unemployment rate, and reasonable income growth."
Males responding to the survey had recorded a five-point drop in confidence while female sentiment was unchanged.
ANZ described this as the "back to work" effect, as male confidence increased after adjusting for seasonality.
Confidence across age groups was mixed but after accounting for seasonality all age ranges recorded a lift in optimism, ANZ said.
The younger age groups were more positive, but Bagrie said the gap was closing and seasonally adjusted sentiment in the 50 plus age group hit a new record high.
On a three-month average basis, confidence in Auckland and Canterbury touched seven-year highs, with the rest of the South Island also improving to third ranking.
Expected inflation lifted, but expected house-price inflation weakened. Both price expectation measures were the highest in Wellington, at 4.8 and 4.9 per cent respectively, ANZ said.