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Resilient U.S. Consumers Begin 2016 With Confidence
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Resilient U.S. Consumers Begin 2016 With Confidence

Around the world, consumer confidence in the first quarter of 2016 showed a fair amount of country-by-country variation, with perhaps no better example than in North America, where confidence remained strong and above the optimism baseline in the U.S. at 110, but declined six points in Canada to 93.

More than of half of U.S respondents were confident that personal finances (68%), immediate spending intentions (56%) and job prospects (52%) would be good or excellent in the next 12 months—a rise of eight percentage points, three percentage points and seven percentage points, respectively, from the fourth quarter of 2015. Discretionary spending intentions also showed a rise in the first quarter, rising eight percentage points for paying debts (33%), seven percentage points for out-of-home entertainment expenses (21%) and five percentage points for retirement savings (20%).

“The U.S. economy continues to be driven by consumers,” said Louise Keely, senior vice president, Nielsen, and president, The Demand Institute. “Enough jobs are being added that unemployment is falling and the participation rate is finally rising, and wage growth is sound. U.S. consumer sentiment is consistent with recent spending growth and a robust housing market that result from stronger labor markets. Still, confidence is subject to influence by overall political and economic volatility that Americans experience: The U.S. in the midst of a presidential election cycle and there is global economic uncertainty as well as recent terrorism concerns. We continue to watch American consumer confidence levels closely.”

To the north of the U.S., however, confidence declined in Canada to its lowest level in four years, as consumer optimism about job prospects declined nine percentage points to 37%—the lowest level for the country since 2009. Favorable perceptions about personal finances declined two percentage points to 56%, and immediate spending intentions declined four percentage points to 37% from the previous quarter.

“Canada’s unemployment level is at 7.1%, up 0.3 points from last year, and job creation is shifting from the west to eastern Canada, as the economy adjusts to the impact of a softening oil industry,” said Carman Allison, vice president, Nielsen Consumer Insights. “The low Canadian dollar and rising food prices continue to affect consumer purchasing power, as a large portion of goods (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) are imported from the U.S., and consumers are adjusting to higher prices by making trade-offs. For example, beef prices have risen 15%, resulting in an 8% volume decline in beef consumption, as consumers shift to less expensive kinds of meat such as pork, chicken and sausages. Despite economic uncertainty, however, consumer packaged-goods dollar sales have reached a five-year high, ending 2015 up 3.4%, driven primarily by rising prices.”

Other findings from the recent Consumer Confidence report include:

  • India and Indonesia stood out as buoyant growth markets in Asia, while confidence declined in Hong Kong and Japan.
  • Six in 10 global respondents believed their nation’s economy was in recession in the first quarter, the highest level since 2012.
  • Consumer confidence increased in 33% of the markets measured this quarter, compared with 43% that showed an increase in the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • Chile was the only country measured in the Latin American region with a slight rise in confidence in the first quarter, up one point to 80 from the previous quarter.
  • Consumer confidence in all three sub-Saharan markets measured by Nielsen (Nigeria, Ghana & Kenya) were at high levels, but the latest results showed mixed trends.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Global Consumer Confidence Report. If you would like more detailed country-level data from this survey, it is available for sale in the Nielsen Store.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted March 1-23, 2016, and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 63 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 Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The sub-Saharan African countries in this study are compiled from a separate mobile methodology survey among 1,600 respondents in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.