Consumers are Holding Their Breath as the Dust Settles in Europe

Consumers are Holding Their Breath as the Dust Settles in Europe

While the economy stabilizes in Europe, consumers have remained wary. Confidence fell in 18 of the region’s 32 markets measured in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen’s latest Global Survey of Consumer Confidence. And the biggest index declines came from the previous quarter’s biggest gainers. Confidence declined 11 index points in Portugal, 10 points in France and six points in Belgium, compared with Q3 when confidence increased 22 index points in Portugal, eight points in France and nine points in Belgium. And nine of the 10 countries with the lowest consumer confidence scores (of 60 measured) hailed from Europe, with Portugal, Croatia, Italy, Greece and Slovenia at the bottom. Nonetheless, the worst may very well be over.

“Europe has stabilized but faces a long and gradual road to economic recovery,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “While progress has been painfully slow, the relative levels of pessimism in the region are better than a year ago when many of Europe’s key economies hit all-time lows.”

At the same time, positive news came from several countries. The region’s largest economy—Germany—posted a confidence score of 95, three points higher than Q3 and eight points ahead of Q4 2012. Denmark, the only country in the region with a confidence score above the optimism baseline of 100, posted an index of 105. And more than half of respondents in Switzerland (56%), Germany (56%) and Norway (51%) cited confidence in job prospects for 2014. 

“Germany’s healthy position among the euro-crisis countries throughout 2013 has once more affected consumer confidence, which led to a record-high (since 2005) index reading,” said Ingo Schier, managing director, Nielsen Germany. “With the election’s coalition agreement in sight when the Nielsen survey was fielded, stable political conditions as well as good economic perspectives for 2014 seem to have given a further boost in confidence. Not even the rise of inflation and especially the rise of food prices towards the end of the year dampened the positive atmosphere.”

Among 32 European markets, the job outlook for the coming year increased in 12 countries, declined in 15 and remained flat in five, though there were a handful of bright spots. Consumer confidence in Ireland, for instance, rebounded to its highest level (77) in more than four years, and was the only country to post a buoyant double digit increase in job prospects for 2014.

“In Ireland, unemployment continues to fall and is now at its lowest level since 2009, the October budget brought certainty for the consumer, and continued low inflation and interest rates spell good news for households,” said Maureen Mooney, commercial director, Nielsen Ireland. “Reports of climbing property prices are another indicator of a country moving forward and a positive sign for the start of 2014.”

The report also discusses:

  • Global consumer confidence in Q4 2013 and outlook for 2014.
  • A regional review of consumer confidence around the world.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q4 2013 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted Nov. 11–29, 2013 and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10 million online population for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.