China and US Improve, but Overall Consumer Confidence Fell in 60% of Global Markets

China and US Improve, but Overall Consumer Confidence Fell in 60% of Global Markets

Consumer confidence declined in 35 out of 56 markets, according to fourth quarter 2011 global consumer confidence findings from Nielsen. Global consumer confidence increased one point last quarter to a score of 89, while Europe led confidence declines in 24 of the region’s 27 measured markets.

“While Europe’s challenging economic conditions in the second half of 2011 bought renewed vulnerability and fragility to consumers and financial markets globally, some of the most positive news last quarter came from the world’s two largest economies—the U.S. and China—where confidence rebounded to Q1 2011 levels,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, Chief Economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “Buoyant domestic consumption also maintained confidence levels in the large emerging economies of India, Indonesia and Brazil. However, slowing GDP growth within emerging economies and inflationary pressures would suggest some degree of caution for the year ahead.”

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, tracks consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 28,000 Internet consumers in 56 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

Personal finances are improved, but spending is still restrained

More than half (52%) of global online consumers described their personal finances for 2012 as excellent/good, up from 50 percent in Q3 2011, but 65 percent indicated it is not a good time to buy, up one percent from the previous quarter.

“Overall, consumer discretionary spending will remain restrained and cautious in the first half of 2012,” said Dr. Bala. “Despite consumers becoming more confident about their personal finances for the year ahead, there is still a reluctance to spend, especially in the West; rising tensions in the Middle East and their impact on gasoline prices could further compound global consumer concerns and spending plans,” added Dr. Bala.

Consumer concern for the economy increased as a top fear among 18 percent of global respondents—an increase of six points from last quarter, which resulted in nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world indicating they believe they are in a recession, up from 62 percent last quarter. A growing number of online respondents in Asia Pacific (53%), Europe (74%), Middle East/Africa (74%) and Latin America (47%) indicated they believe they are in a recession. And while 86 percent of North Americans feel they are in a recession, it was the only region to report an improvement from 88 percent in third quarter.