Consumer confidence still cautious, says Nielsen

Written by Reuters | London | Updated: Oct 30 2012, 07:03am hrs
Global consumer confidence edged higher in the third quarter, underpinned by an improvement in the US, although uncertainty about the economy continued to cap spending, a survey showed.

Sixty two percent of global consumers said they believed their national economies were in recession, up from 57% in the previous quarter, according to the survey by global information company Nielsen, released on Monday. Half of them expected recession to last for another year.

Sixty nine percent of respondents said they were changing their spending habits to save more.

Confidence remained strongest in emerging markets, headed by India and Indonesia. Switzerland, however, also featured in the top 10 most bullish consumer markets after its score jumped from the previous quarter, highlighting a widening recovery gap between northern and southern Europe.

Thailand, Belgium, Australia and Norway also saw a noticeable increase in confidence while sentiment deteriorated sharply in Hong Kong, Israel, Argentina and South Korea. The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 1 point in the third quarter to 92, after dipping 3 points in the second quarter, and was 4 points higher than a year earlier.

The reading of below 100 nevertheless signals consumers are pessimistic about the outlook.

Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen, said further policy action was needed to boost global consumer confidence. Much depends upon policymakers in the US, Europe and Asia to ensure healthy growth and lower unemployment as we move into 2013, Bala said.

Support for the weaker economies in Europe and eliminating the threat of combined tax increases and federal spending cuts in the US are critical. Emerging economies need to also shift more toward domestic consumption and industrial liberalisation respectively.

With the right policy actions, the global consumer will gain confidence to resume spending next year, he added. Greece, Italy and Spain, at the centre of the euro zone debt crisis, were also among the weakest consumer markets. While confidence deteriorated in Spain, it picked up slightly in Greece and Italy. The survey was conducted between August 10 and September 7 and covered over 29,000 online consumers across 58 markets.