Australia Consumer Confidence Falls in April

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A measure of Australian consumer confidence fell in April to end three months of solid gains, a reminder of how brittle the mood can be despite low interest rates and a brighter global background.

The poll of 1,200 people by the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank showed its index of consumer sentiment dropped 5.1 percent in April, following gains of 2.0 percent in March and 7.7 percent in February.

The index was still up 11 percent on April last year and the reading of 104.9 meant optimists outnumbered pessimists, albeit only modestly.

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"This is a surprising result," said Westpac chief economist Bill Evans.

"This result emphasizes how fragile consumer confidence has become in the current environment."

Consumers had seemed to be finally feeling the benefits of lower interest rates after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) eased in November and December.

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That was one reason the central bank has since kept rates on hold.

Details of the survey showed respondents were less upbeat on the economic outlook, though it was not clear why exactly.

The index of expectations for the economy in the next 12 months fell by 4.5 percent, but was still up 17.2 percent for the year. The measure for the economy over the next five years dropped 8.3 percent in April.

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The index of family finances compared with a year ago dropped 3.9 percent, while that for finances over the next 12 months eased 0.2 percent.

The index of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item fell 7.6 percent.