SYDNEY, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Australia’s consumer sentiment rebounded in February as the mood brightened modestly on family finances and the economic outlook, a survey showed on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s survey of 1,200 people by Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank found consumer sentiment rose 2.3 percent in February, from January when it rose just 0.1 percent.
That left the index at 99.6, just below the level where optimists match pessimists.
The sub-indices in the survey were broadly firmer.
The measure of family finances compared to a year ago bounced 4 percent after a sharp drop the previous month, while that for family finances over the next 12 months rose 1.1 percent.
Expectations for the economic outlook over the next 12 months gained 2.8 percent, and the assessment of economic conditions for the next five years rose 1.6 percent.
A bright spot for retailers was the measure of whether this was a good time to buy major household items which increased 2.2 percent for a second month of gains.
“The rebound is a hopeful sign that the soft patch in retail sales late last year has not extended into 2017,” said Westpac Senior Economist Matthew Hassan.
Opinion was more cautious on housing, however. The index that tracks whether this was a good time to buy a dwelling slid 7.8 percent to the lowest since May 2010.
The deterioration might have reflected expectations of higher interest rates. A question on the outlook for mortgage rates found 60 percent of respondents expected rates to be higher in 12 months and just 5 percent looked for a cut.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left rates unchanged at its February meeting last week and signalled policy would be on hold for some time to come.
Yet, 64 percent of survey respondents still thought house prices would rise further over the coming year. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Eric Meijer)