S'pore March consumer confidence boosted by Budget, set to fall with mourning of Lee Kuan Yew, says ANZ-Roy Morgan

SINGAPORE - Consumer confidence here rose in March, mainly driven by greater confidence about personal financial situations and also about the outlook for the Singapore economy following Budget 2015, ANZ-Roy Morgan said on Wednesday.

But its chief economist for South Asia, Asean & Pacific, Mr Glenn Maguire, argued that the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew will "surely impact confidence moving forward".

The ANZ-Roy Morgan Singapore consumer confidence index climbed 3.8 points to 124.5 this month.

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In terms of personal finances now, 31 per cent (up 4 percentage points) of respondents said their families are "better off" financially than a year ago compared with just 7 per cent (down 4 percentage points) who said they are "worse off" financially.

In addition, 33 per cent (up 4 percentage points) of respondents said they expect their families to be "better off" financially in a year's time compared with only 6 per cent (down 2 percentage points) who expect their families to be "worse off" financially.

Thinking of economic conditions in Singapore going forward, 47 per cent (up 3 percentage points) of respondents, expect Singapore to have "good times" economically over the next 12 months compared with just 12 per cent (unchanged) who expect "bad times" economically.

Over the longer-term, 47 per cent (up 2 percentage points) of respondents expect Singapore to have "good times" financially during the next five years and only 8 per cent (down 3 percentage points) expect "bad times" financially.

Lastly, 17 per cent (down 3 percentage points) of respondents said now is a "good time to buy" major household items while 20 per cent (up 1 percentage point) said now is a 'bad time to buy' major household items.

Said Mr Maguire: "Consumer confidence appeared to be finding a firmer footing in March on the back of a well-received budget with a relatively firm rise in the number of respondents who believe their personal financial situation would improve."

"More importantly, the number of respondents who believe Singapore will have good times over the next five years was finally starting to exhibit an upward bias, suggesting that the overhang of supply-side restructuring was starting to wane.

"The seismic event that is likely to arrest this nascent recovery in consumer confidence is the death on Monday morning of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew."

Mr Maguire said the immediate short-term impact on the economy should come mainly through the channel of consumer spending and confidence.

"We will be closely monitoring our ANZ-Roy Morgan Singapore Consumer Confidence series in coming months to determine the likely impact on private expenditure as the country transits through this difficult time," he said.

"Given the leviathan role Mr Lee played in defining Singapore's first half-century of economic transformation either as Prime Minister or Minister Mentor, it is almost impossible to imagine a situation in which consumer confidence does not retreat following his passing."