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Are Happy Days Returning to the U.S. and Western Europe?
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Are Happy Days Returning to the U.S. and Western Europe?

Better days for consumers in the U.S. and Europe may finally be near. Since the Great Recession started at the end of 2008, many consumers around the world have largely been in belt-tightening mode for much of the past five years. But the latest consumer confidence results from Nielsen showed that confidence is slowly rising in the U.S. and Europe, as consumer sentiment improved in both regions in the third quarter. Confidence in the U.S. jumped eight points to an index of 98 from the same period 12 months ago, while sentiment in Europe rose three points to 74, according to Nielsen’s latest Global Survey of Consumer Confidence.

Consumer confidence in the U.S. was the highest it’s been in six years (since Q3 2007) and neared pre-recession levels, and the rise in Europe was the biggest quarter-on-quarter increase since Q1 2010—it was also an improvement from three consecutive quarters where confidence was fixed at 71. In key Western European countries, sentiment in Germany increased six index points year-on-year to 92; France increased eight points to 61 from 53 in Q2 2013; and the U.K. reported an index of 87, the highest score since Q3 2007, up 10 points from Q3 2012.

While consumers in India and Brazil remain some of the most confident in the world, confidence in these key growth economies has shown modest downward movement over the last few quarters. India reported a score of 112 for its third consecutive quarterly decline, and confidence in Brazil dipped one index point to 109. Confidence in China and Russia both held steady from Q2 2013 with index scores of 110 and 80, respectively.

“Given the size and scale of these economies, it is encouraging to see significant gains in consumer confidence within the U.S. and Western Europe as we consider where we were last year and look ahead to 2014,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen. “At the same time, we have to keep modest developing market declines in perspective. While India is significantly off peak optimism of 131 measured three years ago in 2010, it is still one of the largest and most confident countries in the world, and that has an impact on the entire region.”

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 30,000 respondents with Internet access in 60 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

In the latest round of the survey, consumer confidence increased in more than half (57%) of the markets Nielsen measures, compared with less than half (45%) in the previous quarter. Even though confidence in Indonesia declined four index points to 120, the region reported the highest consumer confidence index for the third consecutive quarter. Seven of 10 countries reporting the highest index scores declined in the third quarter; six hailed from Asia-Pacific. Hungary reported the lowest index of 45, but posted a four-point increase from Q2. Portugal reported the biggest quarter-on-quarter index increase of 22 points for a score of 55.

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Other findings include:

  • Consumers around the world are ready to spend, but are conditioned to save.
  • Saving, investing and paying down debt were priorities in the third quarter.
  • Recession-battered Europe showed signs of recovery in Q3.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q3 2013 Global Consumer Confidence Report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between Aug. 14 and Sept. 6, 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.