Globally, consumer confidence returned to pre-financial crisis
levels in the first three months of this year, at its highest since
the first quarter of 2007, the survey by global information and
insights company Nielsen showed on Wednesday.
Improving job prospects are bolstering consumer sentiment. Nearly
half of survey respondents globally, or 49 percent, expected the job
market would be good or excellent in the upcoming year and positive
perceptions about local job prospects over the next 12 months
increased in the first quarter in every region except Latin America.
Consumer confidence was highest in the Asia Pacific and Indonesia
was the most upbeat market globally for a fifth straight quarter,
followed by India.
Croatia and Italy were the most pessimistic markets.
The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 2 points in the
first quarter to 96, according to the survey, conducted between
February 17 and March 7. A reading below 100, however, signals still
relatively low consumer morale.
Consumer confidence in the United States hit the 100 mark, rising 6
points from the previous quarter, and 44 percent of respondents said
they were putting spare cash into savings accounts, up from 39
percent in the previous quarter.
"Recovery gained forward momentum in the U.S. as the world's largest
economy reported improving unemployment numbers and rising equity
and home prices," said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The
Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. "While the number of Americans
who felt mired in recession is still high (63 percent), the sharp
improvement from the fourth quarter is an encouraging sign."
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Confidence among American consumers should continue to increase
although that will depend on further improvement in the labor and
housing markets and on sound economic policy, he said.
"Unexpected spikes in interest rates, gasoline prices or impact from
major geopolitical events are potential risks. At this point of
time, such risks appear to be fairly contained, so one can
anticipate slow yet meaningful improvements in consumer confidence
in coming quarters," Venkatesh said.
While confidence in debt-laden euro zone economies remained weak it
improved sharply in some markets, jumping eight points in both
France and Greece from the fourth quarter of last year and rising 7
points in Portugal.
That supports recent data indicating that euro zone countries that
were hardest hit by the debt crisis are slowly picking up.
Consumer sentiment fell sharply in Ukraine in the first three months
of this year amid a political crisis and tensions with Russia, which
annexed the Crimea region last month.
Ukraine saw the biggest drop in consumer sentiment of the 60 markets
covered in the survey. Its score fell by 7 points to 56. Egypt saw
the biggest jump in confidence, by 11 points to 87.
The Nielsen survey covered more than 30,000 online consumers across
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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