Global consumer confidence inches up in Q3 2012

Friday, 23 November 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Global consumer confidence increased one index point to 92 in Q3 2012, and is up four index points from the same period the previous year (Q3 2011), according to global consumer confidence findings from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

In the latest round of the survey, conducted between 10 August and 7 September 2012, overall confidence rose in 52% of global markets measured by Nielsen, compared to a 41% increase in the previous quarter. Consumer confidence in Q3 2012 increased in 30 of 58 markets, declined in 19 and remained flat in seven.

“The subdued third quarter results reflect an overall trend that is neither positive nor negative as consumers are treading water very carefully,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, Chief Economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.

“Consumers played it safe in Q3, especially in Europe, which still faces a very precarious economic situation despite some recent stabilising policy initiatives by the European Central Bank. Export growth from China, especially to the euro zone, has slowed substantially accompanied by restraint among consumers there. Consumers in the US, while less directly impacted by Europe, continue to be cautious in the face of an uneven recovery, marked by still-elevated unemployment levels and disappointing payroll growth.”

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 internet consumers in 58 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

Recessionary sentiment grew

According to Nielsen’s survey, 62% of global respondents said they were in a recession – an increase from 57% the previous quarter and consistent with Q3 2011 results. Of those that said they were in a recession, half (49%) believed the recession would continue for another year.

More respondents in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific believed their region had fallen back into a recession compared to last year and last quarter.

The number of Europeans who believed they were in a recession rose from 71% in Q2 to 75% in Q3. Recessionary sentiment also increased seven percentage points in Asia-Pacific to 52% and four percentage points in Latin America to 53%. The Middle East/Africa region reported the only recessionary mindset decline, decreasing five percentage points in Q3 to 72%.

“Europe is and will remain the epicentre of global growth concerns over the next several quarters, with the major European economies currently in or at the brink of recession,” said Dr. Bala.

 “In the US, the major risk to the ongoing recovery is the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ beginning January 2013, when the expiration of tax cuts along with automatic reductions in government spending could precipitate a second recession unless US lawmakers act in the interim. China remains a relative bright spot despite slowing growth there, with the possibility that rising demand from domestic sources could eventually help counteract slowing exports. We expect considerable uncertainty as these trends start to come into focus for the balance of this year.”

Global consumers continued to cut back

Seven in 10 global online respondents (69%) changed their spending habits to save on household expenses, an increase of two percentage points from last quarter and three percentage points from a year ago.

Half of global respondents (52%) said they spent less on new clothes and cut back on out-of-home entertainment expenses (48%). Other actions taken by global respondents include saving on gas and electricity (47%), switching to cheaper grocery brands (39%) and cutting down on telephone expenses (33%).

“The ongoing Euro zone crisis continued to create global headwinds that impacted all regions, but especially Asia’s critical export market,” said Dr. Bala. “As key global economic indicators deteriorated last quarter, consumers remained uncertain and reticent to spend.”   

Regional roundup

Nielsen’s survey shows that North America and Europe reported the only quarterly consumer confidence increases, rising three index points to 91 and one point to 74, respectively. Asia-Pacific (100) and Middle East/Africa (98) regions remained flat in Q3 and Latin America decreased two index points to 94.

India (119) and Indonesia (119) reported the highest index scores in Q3 while China’s index score increased 0.6 to 106 and the U.S. increased three points to 90.

The biggest quarterly consumer confidence gains in Q3 were reported in Switzerland (+10), Belgium (+9), Australia (+8), Thailand (+8), Hungary (+7), Norway (+7), United Arab Emirates (+6), Italy (+5) and Canada (+5).

The biggest quarterly consumer confidence declines in Q3 were reported in Hong Kong (-15), Argentina (-11), South Korea (-10), Vietnam (-8), Colombia (-8), Israel (-7), Venezuela, (-7), Malaysia (-6) and Finland (-5).