Australian Consumer Confidence Rose to Highest in 19 Months, Says Westpac

Australia’s[B] Westpac Consumer Confidence[/B] added 9.3% in July, the second consecutive month of gains, rising to the highest level in 19 months. In annual terms, confidence has added 38.5%. We had speculated the release would produce an uptick in our Australian Dollar Weekly Forecast, noting that sentiment was likely to be boosted as a hefty A$12 billion in fiscal stimulus filters into the broad economy. Westpac chief economist Bill Evans seems to agree, saying the result is “unquestionably a stunning result” that must owe to “the huge financial handouts introduced by the government.” The Australian Dollar barely budged as the data crossed the wires, reflecting a perception that the big question going forward will be whether the economy can maintain momentum once the flow of government cash dries up. Yesterday,the central bank kept interest rates unchanged but said that there is still “scope for further easing of monetary policy”, identifying credit conditions and the effects of economic weakness on asset quality as “a challenge”.