12 Feb 2009

Rate cuts, stimulus fail to buoy Australian consumers

3:22 pm on 12 February 2009

Consumer gloom in Australia has deepened despite interest rates plunging to 1960s levels and the promise of a $A42 billion economic stimulus package, a key report says.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment fell 4.6% in February to 85.8 points, the second consecutive monthly drop and the worst reading since November.

The latest confidence reading showed an annual decline of 12%, even though more rate cuts are expected.

In February, sentiment stayed below the key 100-point level, where pessimists are the majority, for the 13th straight month.

This is the longest run of gloom since late 1993, in the aftermath of the last recession.

A one percentage point interest rate cut from the Reserve Bank of Australia in February failed to buoy consumer spirits even though the cash rate fell to a 45-year low of 3.25%.