Global consumer confidence dips, Indians still most optimistic

Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:00am EST

* Global consumers cautious on 12-month outlook
    * Sentiment strongest in India, Southeast Asia
    * Greeks most pessimistic after slump in confidence
    * Norway most optimistic among developed markets

    By Susan Fenton
    LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Global consumer confidence dipped
at the end of last year, a survey showed on Monday, and more
than 60 percent of respondents said the next 12 months would not
be a good time to spend.
    Concerns about U.S. budget talks, which have since eased,
and worries about the euro zone crisis weighed on consumer
sentiment in the final quarter of 2012, according to the survey
by global information and insights company Nielsen.
    Sixty three percent of respondents said it was not a good
time to buy discretionary or non-discretionary things over the
next 12 months, with spending restraint most notable among
Europeans.
    Consumers in the Asia Pacific were most upbeat but even
there 59 percent said the next 12 months would not be a good
time to spend, the survey showed.
    India remained the most optimistic consumer market globally
for a second straight quarter, followed by the Philippines,
Indonesia and Thailand.
    The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index dipped 1 point
in the fourth quarter to 91, after rising 1 point in the third 
quarter, and was 2 points higher than a year earlier. 
    A reading below 100 signals consumers are pessimistic about
the outlook. Only 10 of the 58 markets surveyed reported a
reading above 100.
    Confidence was worst in euro zone countries grappling with
debt problems, notably Greece, where consumer sentiment fell
sharply in the fourth quarter from the previous three months.
    "With continuing uncertainty concerning the United States
debt ceiling and mandated spending cuts, along with as-yet
tentative signs of economic stabilization in Europe, we can
expect continued caution and moderate growth in the first
quarter of 2013," said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The
Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.
    "The major downside risk continues to be in Europe, where
policy missteps within the European Union or within individual
countries could damage fragile consumer confidence and take hold
globally."
    Confidence in China edged up slightly while Norway was the
only developed market to be ranked among the top 10 most
optimistic consumer markets globally.
    In the United States, confidence dipped slightly between the
third and fourth quarters but job prospects improved. 
    Since the survey was conducted U.S. lawmakers have reached a
deal to avoid automatic tax rises and spending cuts, although
they face more showdowns over fiscal measures in coming months,
and economic data has pointed to a sluggish recovery. 
    "North America is slowly, but steadily heading in the right
direction," said Bala. "With continued weakness in Europe and
uneven growth in Asia, it may well be that with a brighter job
market, the United States serves as the critical engine of
improved global economic activity in 2013."
    The U.S. economy unexpectedly contracted in the fourth
quarter of 2012 but has got off to an encouraging start this
year with manufacturing growing at the fastest pace in nine
months in January and employment rising modestly.
    The Nielsen survey was conducted between Nov. 10-27, 2012
and covered more than 29,000 online consumers across 58 markets.
 
         
    Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index in the fourth      
 
quarter, 2012 (change from Q3, 2012 survey in brackets):       
   
  
   Top 10 index readings             Bottom 10 index readings   
  
      
   India                 121 (+2)    Bulgaria         61 (-3)   
 
   Philippines           119 (+1)    Japan            59 (0)   
   Indonesia             117 (-2)    Slovakia         57 (-5)   
 
   Thailand              115 (+3)    France           52 (-9)   
 
   UAE                   113 (-1)    Spain            46 (-2) 
   Saudi Arabia          112 (-1)    Croatia          42 (+1)   
   Brazil                111 (+1)    Italy            39 (-7)  
   China                 108 (+2)    S.Korea/Portugal 38 (-2,-3)
   Malaysia              103 (-2)    Hungary          37 (0)  
   Norway                102 (0)     Greece           35 (-11)  
 
   
        
 -------------------------------------------------------------- 
        
  Global consumer confidence average      91 (-1)            
  United States                           89 (-1)          
  Germany                                 87 (+1)          
  UK                                      79 (+2)           
   
  Source: Nielsen