Otago region lowest in consumer confidence

Otago has recorded the lowest level of consumer confidence across the regions in the latest ANZ regional trends quarterly economic survey.

The region had consistently rated poorly since December last year, which coincided with weaker employment, house prices and retail sales, economist Steve Edwards said.

The number of house sales dropped 6.6% in the three months to July, resulting in an 18% fall over the past year, while the average sale price dropped 1.7%.

The number of dwelling approvals issued increased 6% in the June quarter to touch a nine-month high, while the number of commercial construction consents rose 16% to reach an 18-month high.

The value of commercial building permits was even stronger, rising 29% in the latest three months.

News of an upgrade to the University of Otago provided a boost to local sentiment, Mr Edwards said.

Last month, the university revealed plans to spend $650 million upgrading its campuses.

Some Otago retailers remained depressed following a warm start to winter and continued growth in online sales.

Retail trade in the region eased 1.9% in the June quarter, contrasting with a 1.2% rise nationally.

Business confidence in Southland remained positive but dairy farmers were reportedly getting nervous about a reduced 2014-15 payout, with an increasing focus on costs and debt repayment.

The region's unemployment rate improved to its lowest level since March 2013.

The small decline in Canterbury residential building consent numbers in the second quarter suggested residential activity might be close to peaking, with the focus of the rebuild shifting to the commercial sector, he said.

The number of dwelling consents slipped 1.5% in the June quarter but remained 30% higher than a year ago.

In contrast, the value of commercial building consents issued rose 33% in the latest three months, to be 65% higher than a year ago.

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