WELLINGTON: Consumer confidence in New Zealand dropped sharply in the second quarter and is now at its lowest level since the survey began in 1988, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Westpac-McDermott Miller consumer confidence index fell to 78.7 from 92.1 in the previous quarter. A reading above 100 indicates more optimists than pessimists.

"Household budgets are being squeezed in a way that they haven't been for decades," commented Westpac's Acting Chief Economist Michael Gordon.

"The combination of rising mortgage rates and increases in living costs has already taken a large bite out of disposable incomes. And with interest rates set to rise even further, many households will find the pressure on their finances becoming more intense over the coming months," he said.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Sandra Maler)