Global and U.S. Consumer Confidence at Highest Levels Since 2007
Consumer Confidence Remains Flat in China; Increases in Europe
NEW YORK – Global consumer confidence returned to pre-recession levels with an index of 96 in the first quarter of 2014—the highest score since Q1 2007, according to consumer confidence findings from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy. The global index—which recorded its lowest score of 77 in Q1 2009—represents a two-point increase from Q4 2013 and a three-point increase from a year ago (Q1 2013).
Across the world’s six biggest economies, five demonstrated consumer confidence gains. Listed by the level of the increase, overall confidence increased eight points in France (59), six index points in the U.S. (100), four points in Germany (99), three points in the U.K. (87), one point in Japan (81) and remained flat in China (111). Consumer confidence in Japan and Germany are at the highest levels since 2005.
Regional consumer confidence was highest in Asia-Pacific with an index of 106, a one-point increase from the previous quarter (Q4 2013) and a three-point increase from a year ago (Q1 2013). North America posted the largest quarterly increase of five index points to reach the optimism baseline of 100—the highest level since 2007. The Middle East/Africa region increased four index points to 94, and Europe increased two index points to 75, compared to Q4 2013. Latin America reported the only quarterly regional consumer confidence decline of one index point to 93.
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, conducted February 17 – March 7, 2014, consumer confidence increased in 60 percent of markets measured by Nielsen—up from 43 percent the previous quarter (Q4 2013).
Indonesia (124) reported the highest consumer confidence index for the fifth consecutive quarter. Croatia and Italy each reported the lowest consumer confidence index scores of 45, an increase of one point each compared to the previous quarter. Egypt (87) and Switzerland (104) reported the largest quarter-on-quarter index increases of 11 and 10 index points, respectively. Ukraine (56) reported the biggest quarterly index decline of seven points.
Global Job Outlook Improves
Positive perceptions about local job prospects over the next 12 months increased in the first quarter in every region except Latin America. Almost half of global respondents (49%) believed the job market would be good or excellent in the upcoming year, a quarterly increase of 2 percentage points, which brings the average to just below the pre-recession outlook of 50 percent. The biggest quarterly increase in job optimism came from North America, increasing 5 percentage points to 43 percent.
More than half (55%) of global respondents regarded their personal finances positively, a level that has held steady for three consecutive quarters. In Latin America and Asia-Pacific, respondents were most secure in money matters, with 63 and 62 percent, respectively, believing the state of their finances were good or excellent. European respondents were least confident about finances, with 57 percent saying their personal money situation was not good or bad.
Recessionary Sentiment Lingers
More than half of global respondents (55%) said they felt the effects of recession in the first quarter, but the sentiment was improved compared to 57 percent in the previous quarter. Regionally, recessionary sentiment improved most in North America, down 7 percentage points to 61 percent, the lowest level since the start of the recession (2007).
More than two-thirds (68%) of markets measured by Nielsen reported an improved recessionary sentiment compared to fourth-quarter 2013, with the steepest improvements in the United Arab Emirates (-11 percentage points), Switzerland (-11pp) and Peru (-10pp). Recessionary sentiment also improved by 9 percentage points in Mexico, Vietnam, Romania and New Zealand and by 8 points in the U.S. and the Netherlands.
Highlights from Around the World
In North America, U.S. savings and investing intentions picked up pace in the first quarter, with 44 percent of respondents putting spare cash into savings accounts, up from 39 percent in fourth-quarter 2013. Fifteen percent invested in stocks and mutual funds, up from 11 percent the previous quarter. More than one-third (36%) said they paid debts, credit cards and loans, a quarterly increase of 5 percentage points. U.S. discretionary spending intentions also increased across numerous categories, including new technology and out-of-home entertainment, which increased 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively, compared to fourth-quarter 2013.
In Europe, consumer confidence increased in 22 of 32 markets in the first quarter. Confidence in France (59) and Greece (53) increased eight index points each, and Portugal (51) and Spain (61) increased seven and three index points, respectively, compared to fourth-quarter 2013. Consumer confidence in Germany remained robust with an index score of 99, an increase of four points from the previous quarter.
Consumer confidence in Asia-Pacific increased in eight of 14 markets in the first quarter, was flat in three and declined in three. The region’s biggest quarterly index increases were in India (121) and Hong Kong (111), increasing six index points each. India’s index rise returns the score to a fourth-quarter 2012 level after several quarters of declining performance. Consumer confidence in the Philippines (116) and Thailand (108), as well as Indonesia (124) and China (111), were among the highest index scores of 60 countries measured.
Brazil led the Latin America region with the highest index of 106, which declined four points from fourth-quarter 2013. The biggest regional quarter-on-quarter consumer confidence index increases were in Mexico (86) and Venezuela (78), which rose eight and four index points, respectively. Conversely, consumer confidence in Argentina (71) declined six index points, while Chile (98) and Peru (101), each fell one index point, respectively, compared to fourth-quarter 2013. Colombia’s index remained flat in the first quarter with a score of 93.
In the Middle East/Africa, the United Arab Emirates (114) and Saudi Arabia (102) reported the highest consumer confidence scores in the region, increasing four and one index points, respectively, compared to fourth-quarter 2013. Confidence in Egypt increased most regionally, rising 11 index points in the first quarter to an index of 87. Pakistan increased two index points to 99, and South Africa posted the only regional confidence decline of four index points to 82.
Confidence Is Measured in Sub-Saharan Africa
New to the Nielsen consumer confidence measurement in the first quarter is the addition of three sub-Saharan African markets—Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.
Consumer confidence was highest in Nigeria in the first quarter with an index of 120. Kenya reported an above-the-baseline index score of 110, and Ghana’s index score was just below the baseline at 97. More than half of respondents in Kenya (57%) and Nigeria (52%) were optimistic about local job prospects in the next were 12 months, compared with 42 percent in Ghana.
While 80 percent of Nigerian respondents were confident about their personal finances, just under half (49%) believed that now was a good time to spend. In Kenya, 69 percent of respondents believed money matters were good or excellent, and 36 percent were confident in their current spending capacity. In Ghana, 62 percent were optimistic about their finances, and 34 percent of respondents were ready to spend.
About the Nielsen Global Survey
The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted Feb. 17 – March 7, 2014, 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 its Internet users, 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 10M 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.
Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.
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 While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.
 A mobile survey methodology was deployed to gauge sentiment in these countries, which differs from the online methodology used to report consumer confidence and spending intentions for the other 60 countries outlined in this report. As such, these three sub-Saharan African markets are not included in the global or Middle East/Africa averages.