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Australia Consumer Confidence Falls To 5-Year Low

Australia's consumer confidence declined to a five-year low in March as worsening coronavirus outbreak and associated rout in financial markets weighed on households' major purchase decisions and finances, survey data from Westpac showed on Wednesday.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment fell to 91.9 in March from 95.5 in February.

This was the second lowest level of the index since the global financial crisis, when the reading bottomed out at 79. The survey showed that consumers were taking a more balanced approach to the situation than reported during the global financial crisis.

Suggesting that the virus-related disruptions will be large but temporary, the survey details showed consumers were rightly concerned about the near term outlook for the economy but were less perturbed about their finances or the longer term outlook for the economy.

Across the five component sub-indexes, the biggest fall was around expectations for the economy, particularly over the near term. Only assessment of family finances versus a year ago conditions improved from February.

Given the clear risks being faced by the Australian economy over the next few months the central bank is likely to lower the cash rate by a further 0.25 percent in April, Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac, said.

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