February 6, 2012 / 10:00 PM / 7 years ago

US consumer confidence jumps, globally shoppers still cautious -Nielsen

* India retains top spot, confidence weakest in Hungary 	
    * Euro zone consumers suffer from austerity measures	
    * Improving labour market boosts American consumer morale	
      	
    By Susan Fenton     	
    LONDON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Consumer confidence jumped in the
United States at the end of last year but deteriorated in
struggling euro zone countries as policymakers failed to get
control over the region's debt crisis, a survey showed on
Monday.	
    Global consumer confidence rose slightly from the third
quarter, according to the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence
Index, which edged up one point in the fourth quarter of 2011 to
89, but confidence fell in 60 percent of 56 markets surveyed due
to rising concern about the economic outlook.	
    Just over half of consumers globally described their
personal finances for 2012 as good to excellent, up from 50
percent in the third quarter, but 65 percent indicated it was
not a good time to buy, up 1 percent from the previous quarter. 	
    In the United States, consumers saw an improvement in their
personal finances for the year ahead with 49 percent saying
their personal financial prospects looked good to excellent, up
from 43 percent in the previous quarter and encouraged by signs
of an improving labour market.	
    Consumer confidence in the world's biggest economy jumped
six points to 83. 	
    China also saw a jump in confidence, helped in part by
easing food inflation. 	
    Confidence was highest in India for an eighth straight 	
quarter and India's reading rose by a point from the third	
quarter to 122. It was followed by the Philippines and
Indonesia, reinforcing the trend for rising confidence across
Asia.	
    However, India's score was well below the country's record
137 index reading in the second half of 2006, the highest
reading for any country in the survey's near seven-year history.	
    A reading below 100 indicates consumers are pessimistic 	
about the economic outlook for the coming months.  	
    Confidence was lowest in Hungary, where nervousness about
public finances and unorthodox government policies rattled
investors and put aid talks with the International Monetary Fund
in jeopardy late last year, a situation Budapest has been trying
to repair this year. 	
    "In Hungary, a perfect storm of factors is contributing to
low and declining consumer confidence," said Judit SzalokyToth,
managing director, Nielsen Hungary. "Rising taxes and
unpredictable government regulations coupled with declining
disposable income has fueled insecurity and pessimism among
consumers."	
   Confidence was next weakest in EU/IMF bailout recipients
Portugal and Greece while France, Spain, Italy and Ireland were
also in the bottom 10, reflecting the impact of the euro zone's
debt problems and austerity measures imposed to try and resolve
the crisis.	
    "While Europe's challenging economic conditions in the
second half of 2011 brought 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 Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The
Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.	
    In the Middle East confidence fell in Saudi Arabia, although
the country had the fourth highest level of confidence globally.
It also fell in Egypt and Israel, reflecting concerns about job
security and political stability across the region. 	
    The survey, taken between Nov. 23 and Dec. 9, covered    	
28,000 consumers in 56 countries.   	
    	
    Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index in the fourth     	
quarter, 2011 (Change from Q3, 2011 survey in brackets):      	
    Top 10 index readings             Bottom 10 index readings  
 	
    India                 122  (+1)   Ireland           60 (-4) 
  	
    Philippines/Indonesia 117 (+5,+3) Romania           59 (+10)
  	
    Saudi Arabia          113 (-7)    Japan             56 (0)	
    Brazil                112 (0)     France/Spain    55 (-1,-1)
          	
    China                 108 (+4)    Italy             49 (-3) 	
    UAE                   105 (0)     S. Korea          46 (-3) 
   	
    Thailand              104 (-5)    Croatia           43 (-6) 
  	
    Australia             103 (+6)    Greece            41 (-10)	
    Malaysia              101 (0)     Portugal          36 (-4) 
  	
    Vietnam/Hong Kong      99 (+3,-5) Hungary           30 (-7) 
 	
 -------------------------------------------------------------- 	
   	
   Global consumer confidence average      89 (+1)      	
   United States                           83 (+6)    	
   Germany                                 87 ( 0)    	
   UK                                      71 (-2)     	
     	
   Source: Nielsen   	
            	
      	
 	
 	
	
 (editing by Ron Askew)
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