New Zealand consumer confidence has risen as Kiwis enjoy cheaper fuel prices and lower fixed home-loan rates, and become more upbeat about the outlook for the economy.

THE Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index latest survey shows that confidence rose to 117.4 in the first three months of 2015, from 114.8 previous three months.

The current conditions index gained 1.8 points to 113.2 and the expected conditions index rose three points to 120.1.

The survey comes as figures show a 1.2 per cent jump in New Zealanders’ spending on debit and credit cards in February, faster than some economists had expected, indicating that consumers are becoming more comfortable with their spending power.

Perceptions of an improvement in the one-year outlook for the economy showed the biggest gain in the survey, rising 7.3 points to 23.8 per cent.”Petrol prices and fixed mortgage rates have continued to fall since the previous survey, while share prices and house prices have continued to rise,” said Westpac senior economist Felix Delbruck.

“Rising consumer confidence is also in keeping with the very strong electronic card spending data we saw over January and February.”

Mr Delbruck said a regional breakdown in the survey surprised in showing that rural consumers were less gloomy than expected in the face of a low dairy payout and drought conditions in some parts of the country.

Confidence in urban centres was “healthy, rather than exuberant”.

Extracted in full from The Australian.