Australian consumer sentiment rebounded amid hope coronavirus restrictions

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Australian consumer sentiment rebounded amid hope coronavirus restrictions

SYDNEY, Sept. 15 Reuters - A measure of Australian consumer sentiment in early September amid hopes harsh coronavirus restrictions would soon be eased as the pace of vaccinations stepped up markedly across the states.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment released on Wednesday rose 2.0% in September, recouping some of the August's 4.4% fall.

Sentiment rebounded by 5.3% in New South Wales after state government flagged a loosening of restrictions as early as mid-October, at least for those fully vaccinated.

The national index was up 13.2% in September last year with the mood never getting as bleak as during the first round of the pandemic. The index reading of 106.2 showed optimists outnumbered pessimists by some margin.

The resilience of consumer sentiment in a time when Australia's two major cities have been locked down and the economy has collapsed is truly remarkable, said Westpac chief economist Bill Evans.

The better vaccination situation seems to be a key factor behind these results. Evans noted that confidence amongst 57% of respondents who have had at least one dose was running at 103.7, while confidence among the 27% who were unvaccinated but willing to get the jab was up at 121.6.

That left 16% of respondents who were either undecided or unwilling to be vaccinated.

The optimism was indicated in the survey measured measures of the outlook for the economy over the next 12 months which rose 4.6%, while the figure for the next five years rose 4.8%.

The measure of family finances compared with one year ago added 1.7% and that for finances over the next 12 months 2.1%.

The only decline was a drop of 2.7% in the measure whether it was a good time to buy a major household, though that could be partly because so many shops close right now.

The time to buy a dwelling measure rebounded by 8.8%, recovering all of August's drop. Expectations for house prices increased by another 1.4% at an eight-year peak, with NSW particularly strong.