Consumer sentiment boosted by jobs market

Australian consumer sentiment is at its highest level in 18 months despite three interest rate rises last year. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment rose 7.3 per cent in January following a rise of 11.8 per cent in December 2006. The increase is partly due to strong employment growth, higher wages and rising wealth. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed that in the three months to November job vacancies increased by 5.9 per cent, taking the increase for 2006 to 21.4 per cent. The latest consumer confidence figures encouraged Westpac to maintain its forecast that the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates again early this year.