Concern over impending rate hikes and sky-high petrol prices have significantly dented consumer confidence, a survey has found.
The MasterIndex of Consumer Confidence, conducted by MasterCard, has revealed that confidence among Australian consumers has fell 10 basis points from last year's level - even though employment and income levels remain solid.
To put this into context, consumer confidence is now hovering at levels not experienced since the economic uncertainty of the late 1990s. The current result is a sluggish 46.5, and well below the historical average.
The survey measured sentiment and outlook toward a range of economic events. Besides 'regular income', consumers harboured a negative outlook to all other factors, including employment and quality of life.
Australia's confidence is on par with survey findings in countries throughout the Asia/Pacific region, where confidence is also trailing the long-run average, found MasterCard.
But it's not all doom and gloom for the lucky country, whose economy continues to chug along buoyed by strong wages growth. "Despite Australia's somewhat pessimistic results, both employment and income levels remain solid and are a positive indication that household spending and economic growth will be maintained," said Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor Asia/Pacific at MasterCard Worldwide.
Australia's results pale in comparison to that of Hong Kong, who scored 88.5. Japanese consumers share this positive outlook, and scored a total of 68.9 - with sentiment particularly strong vis-à-vis employment, the economy and the stock market.