New Zealand's consumer confidence index fell to 96 in the first quarter from 101.3 in the fourth quarter, the latest survey by Westpac Institutional Bank and McDermott Miller Ltd. showed Wednesday.

However,the confidence indicator was still above the low reading of 81.7 reached in June last year, when high interest rates, petrol prices and other costs squeezed consumer budgets.

In the first quarter, the present conditions index slipped to 90.7 from 95 in the previous quarter. At the same time, the future conditions index dropped to 99.6 from 105.5 in the December quarter.

A reading above 100 indicates there are more optimists than pessimists, while a reading below 100 signals pessimists outnumber the optimists.

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