Latest consumer confidence figures from Nielsen indicates Australians are displaying signs of increased optimism.

The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index for the Q2 2013 shows almost half of online Aussies (45 per cent) saying that the next 12 months will be a good time to buy the things they want and need – an increase of eight percent from the same quarter a year ago.

The Index also shows Australian confidence increased five index points from last quarter and increased eight index points when compared with the same period in 2012, to a score of 98, demonstrating that overall consumer optimism has recovered from negative to neutral.

“Confidence levels in Australia have stabilised and appear to be returning to neutral,” Michael Walton, executive director, Nielsen, Pacific, said. “This is particularly encouraging news for the retail sector and we’re seeing consumer savings return to moderate levels, along with a much higher propensity to spend.”

These results now make Australia the eight most optimistic country regardless of spending intentions.

Furthermore, over half (55 per cent) of Australians believe the outlook for their personal finances over the next 12 months is good or excellent, a significant increase from 49 per cent in Q1 2013.

“We’re seeing a real shift in consumer optimism as other markets around the world also experience uplifts in confidence,” Walton said. “Despite confidence levels in Europe remaining largely in a holding pattern, the world’s three largest economies – the U.S., China and Japan – have seen increases in perceptions about jobs, personal finances and spending intentions. This is having a positive rub‐on effect for consumers around the globe, including Australia.

When asked how they plan to utilise spare cash after covering essential living expenses, just over one‐ quarter (28%) said they’d be putting money towards credit cards and debts, a drop of five percentage points on the previous quarter. Correspondently, Q2 2013 saw increases in the number of people intending to buy new clothes (+5 to 27 per cent), holidays (+2 to 30 per cent) and new technology products (+2 to 22 per cent).

“The retail sector will hopefully be rejoicing soon as the restraint on spending that we’ve been experiencing during the past few years starts to lift. However, the falling Australian dollar also means that imports are becoming more expensive, and we’re unlikely to see the current level of discounts continue as the year progresses,” added Walton. 

“Likewise, we expect to see in reduction in the number of consumers purchasing goods from international shopping websites, as these become increasingly expensive with the exchange rate fluctuations.”