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Australian consumer sentiment falls in March: survey

(Xinhua)

13:18, March 14, 2012

SYDNEY, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Australia's consumer sentiment has tumbled after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 4.25% in February and March, a survey by Westpac Banking Corp and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research showed on Wednesday.

The Westpac/Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index fell by 5.0% to 96.1 index points in March, from 101.1 in February.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said the index had fallen below the level in October 2011 prior to the RBA's two rate cuts in November and December.

"With the Index below the 100 level pessimists clearly outnumber optimists," Evans said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Sensitivity to interest rates has, clearly, been one factor responsible for this weak print."

The survey also showed all five components of the index fell in March, with the sub-index tracking consumer views on "family finances compared to a year ago" down 8.6%.

The sub-index tracking views on "family finances over the next 12 months" fell by 4.5% in March.

Evans said the economic outlook also deteriorated, with the sub- index tracking views on "economic conditions over the next five years" down by 6.1%.

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