The “sucker rally” on Wall Street spilled over here with our market up well over 3% or 196 points at 11.30am, but there was a reality check in the latest consumer confidence figures showing it’s now at a 15-year low.

Just as the Roy Morgan poll showed on Friday a sharp drop in consumer confidence before last week’s 0.25% rate rise from the Reserve Bank, the Westpac Melbourne Institute survey, released today, showed an even bigger plunge after that move. The survey was carried out over the period of the rate increase to 7.25% and afterwards, ending on Sunday.

The latest Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Rating for March released today fell 6.3 points to 109.5 from February and is 11.2 points below the March 2007 result of 120.7. The Roy Morgan group said the latest result is the lowest since September 2006.

The latest survey came a day after the National Australia Bank’s latest survey of business confidence showed a slight recovery from Nine year lows reached in January, but the rise was small. The NAB survey showed that business confidence index was at minus 2 in February, the second straight negative reading.

But the big move was in the Westpac/Melbourne Institute Survey: it slid for a third month in a row in March, down to 9.1 points to 88.6. (A reading lower than 100 shows pessimists outnumber optimists).

Westpac Chief Economist, Bill Evans said the survey result takes even more pressure off the Reserve Bank to raise its rates.

The confidence index fell to the lowest since September 1993. The survey was conducted between 3 March and 9 March. The survey showed that the confidence of people who have a home loan slumped 12.1% in the month to be down 31.5% from March 2007.

Indexes measuring the outlook for economic conditions over the next 12 months, and for the next five years, both fell 5.6%. Consumers’ outlook for family finances over the next year fell 8% and like the Roy Morgan poll, the index of whether now is a good time to buy a major household item plunged 11.4%.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey