Goyder upbeat on shoppers

WESFARMERS chief executive Richard Goyder says consumer confidence in "hypochondriac" Australia is improving.

WESFARMERS chief executive Richard Goyder says consumer confidence in "hypochondriac" Australia is improving.

Australia was a "great place to live and do business", Mr Goyder told a Melbourne business lunch, and Australians sometimes lost sight of how fortunate they were.

Speaking after almost a month on the road, Mr Goyder painted a picture of improving economies and sentiment in the US, Britain and Europe.

And he said there was some truth in the saying that Europe was on life-support, the US was in the general ward and Australia was in the ward for hypochondriacs.

"We've had 18 years of consecutive growth in Australia, we've got strong employment and relatively low unemployment, we've got a government that is attempting a fiscal surplus they may not get there, but hopefully they won't be too far away from it and we've got a Reserve Bank which has got significant room to move on monetary policy," he said.

"So actually, Australia is in pretty good shape, and some days I wonder whether we should recognise that a bit more and just be a bit more positive."

Mr Goyder told the Australian Institute of Company Directors event that he believed there were "green shoots on consumer confidence" in Australia. This was due to recent interest rate cuts and commentary that another would follow, plus the cooling of the European debt crisis.

"And I do think that 'flat' is the new 'up'," Mr Goyder said, quoting a US fund manager from his trip.

"So people look at their superannuation funds and say, 'at least it's not going down'.

"In terms of the consumer, hopefully there's some marginally positive signs."

But the resource sector was "materially worse", he said. Wesfarmers' assets include coalmining and gas processing, in addition to Coles and Bunnings.

Wesfarmers is set to release its results next week.

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