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Happy southerners push NZ consumer confidence to 32-month high

New Zealand consumers are the most confident they have been in 32 months and the happiest citizens live in the South Island, according to the ANZ-Roy Morgan NZ consumer confidence survey for February.

Consumer confidence rose 2.7 points to 121 this month, with the biggest pick up being in surveyed Kiwis' perceptions of the broader economy over the next five years, which rose 8 points to 29. Four of the five sub-components of the index rose in the latest month.

The result follows figures indicating consumers are becoming more willing to open their wallets again in the face of low interest rates and rising property values.

New Zealanders surveyed lifted spending on their credit, debit and charge cards by 0.3 percent last month, the fourth straight gain. Data tomorrow is expected to show retail sales climbed 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Roy Morgan survey showed confidence in the South Island rose 4 points to 124, beating the North Island, which rose 5 points to 120.

Confidence rose 1 point to 122 in Canterbury and fell by the same amount to 122 in Auckland. Confidence in Wellington jumped 8 points to 119 but was still the weakest of any region.

Consumers felt less bad about their own financial circumstances than this time last year, with the measure falling to -2 from -5. Looking ahead 12 months, the net balance expecting to be better off rose 6 points to 35.

For the economy as a whole over the next 12 months, a net 12 percent see good times financially, up from 8 percent. Those deeming now to be a good time to buy a major household item fell to a net 32 percent from 38 percent.

Perceptions of house prices rose to a survey high, with respondents expecting a 4.1 percent lift over the next two years.