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Global Confidence Returns to Pre-Recession Levels
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Global Confidence Returns to Pre-Recession Levels

In one of the clearest signs yet that the world is recovering from a “Great Recession,” consumer confidence levels have reached pre-downturn levels in some countries, according to the latest edition of the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index. But the recovery has not taken hold evenly, and some countries remain quite skittish about the economy. Globally, the index reached 92 in the first quarter – just two points shy of the high score posted in the third quarter of 2007 before the recession swept across the world. Confidence hit an all-time low of 77 index points in early 2009.

Confidence rose in 41 of the 55 countries surveyed during the quarter, with India leading the pack (127 points) followed by Indonesia (116) and Norway (115). Lithuanians were the least confident with a score of 46. Taiwan, Singapore, Israel and Colombia posted the biggest gains during the quarter, while Greece saw the largest decline. U.S. confidence hit 85 – up just one point from the previous quarter –while Canadian confidence hit 100. Over the past year, the number of global consumers who believe they are currently in recession dropped 19 points to 58 percent, compared to 77 percent a year ago.

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“Conventional wisdom was that there would be a slow recovery and there have been several signs of stabilization and green shoots in the past 12 months, but Q1 of this year presented the first global show of force towards economic recovery,” said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, Chief Economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of The Nielsen Company. “For the first time in two years, Nielsen’s global consumer data provides evidence that economic prospects are improving—a sign manufacturers and retailers have been eagerly waiting for that consumer spending intentions are turning into actual spending reality.”

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All global regions posted positive increases in consumer confidence, but the pace and extent of economic recovery further widened between the booming Asia Pacific and Latin American countries compared to the sluggish recovery in the United States and western Europe. But while Americans are uncertain about recovery, they have expressed a desire to resume some level of discretionary spending, such as out-of-home entertainment, new apparel and vacations.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • Asia Pacific posted the highest increase in confidence of the regions – up 8 points
  • Chinese confidence levels are back up to its all-time high of 108 in Q1 2005
  • Latin America jumped 5 points, with Brazil leading the region
  • Europe posted a two point increase, but Germany and Italy declined 3 points

Nielsen’s Global Consumer Confidence Index tracks consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 27,000 Internet users in 55 countries. The latest round of the survey was conducted between March 8 and March 26, 2010.