CANBERRA, AAP – Australians are hardly punching the air that the coronavirus vaccine has arrived to lead the country out of the dark days of 2020.
New confidence figures suggest consumers have also ignored the latest upbeat jobs numbers and a string of results that point to a strengthening in the economic recovery from last year’s recession.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – fell 0.6 per cent, its third consecutive decline.
The confidence gauge’s sub-indices proved a mixed bag, with perceptions among respondents views on their current and future financial conditions declining.
The only bright spot was views on general economic conditions in the next five years, rising 1.6 per cent.
ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said the last fall in the index came despite the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Victoria.
He was also surprised that that the ‘time to buy a major household item’ component dropped by 3.9 per cent – its largest drop since August last year – coming at a time when the housing market is strengthening.
“We would expect the two to go hand-in-hand, so the relative softness of this aspect of sentiment may not endure,” Mr Plank said releasing the report on Tuesday.
However, Wednesday’s release of key wage growth figures for the December quarter may give reason to be gloomy.
Economists expect these will show wages grew at a meagre 0.3 per cent in the quarter to a limp annual rate of 1.1 per cent.
The only upside to these Scrooge-like conditions is that annual inflation is crawling along at 0.9 per cent.
Australia’s politicians and business leaders have spoken a lot about confidence in recent days.
Not just confidence in having the Pfizer COVID-19 jab, or the AstraZeneca version from next month, but also in terms of a boost to sentiment as economic activity picks up with the vaccine further containing the virus.
“This should really start to build confidence in the Australian community,” Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said of the vaccine.
“That we can continue to reopen the economy, continue to accelerate it, continue to get people working again, businesses open.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will also release preliminary international trade figures for January.
Despite trade disputes with China over a number of commodities, strong demand for iron ore means Australia has retained a large positive trade balance.
The preliminary trade series was introduced by the ABS to give a more frequent update on the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.