The Malaysia consumer confidence index remained stable in the fourth quarter of 2017 at 94 percentage points (pp), up 1 point from the previous quarter and up 10 points compared to Q4 2016, according to the latest The Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey, in collaboration with Nielsen (formerly known as the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions report). While the confidence level remained steady, Malaysia climbed two spots to be the 30th most confident country globally in the quarter.
“The consumer confidence level for Malaysia has been largely flat for the third quarter in a row. While it remains below the neutral threshold, Malaysian consumers are more confident than they were this time last year,” said Raphael Pereda, Nielsen Malaysia’s Managing Director.
“The country also posted strong GDP growth of 5.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017, while FMCG growth hit an all-time high at 10.4% for the year. We believe that Malaysian consumer confidence will improve over time as other key economic indicators continue to strengthen consistently,” he remarked.
Malaysian consumers continued to rank the nation’s economy (46%, +2% vs. Q3 2017) as their top concern, while job security (22%, +1%) and debt (18%, +1%) place second and third, respectively.
Despite positive economic indicators such as GDP growth, positive FMCG growth and improvements in consumer spending compared to 2016, recessionary sentiments among Malaysians remained high, with 80% of respondents saying that they believed the country was experiencing a recession ( down 5% compared to 85% in Q4 2016).
“The good news is that more than one in four respondents believed that the country will be out of a recession in the coming 12 months – an indication that Malaysian consumers are beginning to feel the impact of improving economic indicators, which has led to increased optimism on the nation’s fiscal outlook compared to consumer sentiment at the end of 2016,” Pereda said.
More than half of the respondents are also positive on the state of their finances, with 52% saying that they expect their personal finances to be either good or excellent in the next 12 months (-4% compared to last quarter, +7% versus Q4 2016). Forty seven percent of respondents also expressed their confidence in the local employment outlook over the next 12 months (+2% vs. prior quarter, +12% versus Q4 2016).
Southeast Asians were once again the world’s most avid savers in Q4 2017 – the Vietnamese took the lead as the most likely in the world to save spare cash (71%), followed by Indonesians in second place (67%) and Thais (66%) in third. Consumers in the Philippines (62%, 9th place) and Malaysia (61%, 10th place) also placed in the world’s top 10 when it came to saving spare cash after covering essential living expenses, while Singapore placed eleventh (59%). Globally, an average of 52% of consumers said that they saved extra cash that they had after spending on essential living expenses (unchanged from last two quarters).
Forty two percent of Malaysian respondents in the quarter also said that they spent their spare cash on holidays or vacations – up 12% compared to respondents in Q4 2016, while 37% said they use the money to pay off their debts or loans (versus 41% in Q4 2016).
When asked if they have changed their spending habits in the last 12 months to save on household expenses, close to nine in 10 respondents said yes (88%, +3% from Q3 2017), with 61% of respondents spending less on new clothes (vs. 63% in Q3 2017), 56% cutting down on out-of-home entertainment (vs. 58%) and 46% switching to cheaper grocery brands (vs. 52%).
Even if economic conditions improve, close to a third of respondents said that they will continue to spend less on new clothes (37%) and that they will continue to save on out-of-home entertainment (28%).
“Malaysians, like their peers in Southeast Asia, have historically been prudent spenders and they continue to be mindful of discretionary spending, while placing more emphasis on building a financial nest for the future,” said Pereda.
The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey is conducted in collaboration with Nielsen. It was conducted November 8 through November 23, 2017 and polled more than 32,000 online consumers in 64 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample includes Internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. The Conference Board uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen China Consumer Confidence Index is sourced from a separate survey conducted by Nielsen China, which is based on a mixed methodology survey of more than 3,000 respondents in China. The Global Consumer Confidence Survey was established in 2005.