Consumers confident, but not spending up large

Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Survey

Consumers are the most optimistic they've been in nine years, but the Reserve Bank's high LVR policy and warnings about higher interest rates next year mean they're less likely to buy a big-ticket item or spend a cash windfall than they were earlier in 2013, a new survey shows.

Westpac released the McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence survey for the December quarter on Monday, showing consumers feeling the most confident they've been since September 2009 and that economic 'optimists' outnumbered economic 'pessimists' by the widest margin since December 2004.

However, that surge in consumer confidence did not translate into a similar jump in spending intentions, Westpac said.

"In fact, the number of households saying that now is a good time to buy a major household item, or that they would spend a cash windfall, is lower than six months ago," Senior Economist Felix Delbruck said.

Delbruck cited concerns about rising house prices, the Reserve Bank's high LVR speed limit and warnings about higher interest rates. He said Aucklanders and older and wealthier home-owners were noticeably more cautious in the survey.

A steady 34.3% said they would spend a NZ$10,000 cash windfall, which was above the long-run average, but below a recent peak of 37.7%.

Women were more cautious than men on the issue of buying a big-ticket item with the lowest proportion willing to buy a big item since late 2012.