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The Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Index, conducted in collaboration with Nielsen, was unchanged in the third quarter of 2019 and remains at a high of 107 (a reading of 100 or above is considered positive). The index has been relatively flat in recent quarters, but hovering at historically high levels for about a year. While consumers are likely to sustain spending, going forward, rising concerns related to trade disputes and geopolitical uncertainties may create a more volatile scenario in which consumers will grow increasingly cautious regarding their spending.
“Despite the lack of momentum in overall consumer confidence, the results suggest a continued positive outlook for consumer spending over the next half year,” says Bart van Ark, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “Confident consumers will continue to bolster the economy, providing a defense against slowing global GDP growth. However, the increase in the number of markets experiencing declining confidence and somewhat increased concerns about job prospects bears watching. A continuation of negative news about a possible escalation of geopolitical uncertainties could further increase anxieties about job security and erode confidence in the economy.”
Despite some softening in large markets—including China, the US, India and Indonesia—consumers across those major markets remain confident. Improvements occurred in Vietnam, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. Greece experienced an exceptionally large increase (12 points), while Hong Kong and Peru had the largest declines (14 points each).
Overall, a declining number of markets are seeing further improvements in confidence (see tables on page 4-5). Out of 64 markets surveyed, 33 (15 emerging and 18 mature markets) saw a decline in consumer confidence in Q3. This is an increase from the prior quarter, when only 29 markets saw a decline (13 emerging and 16 mature markets).
Euro Area Confidence Remains Stable
In the Euro Area, overall consumer confidence remained unchanged. While job prospects slightly weakened, more consumers think this is a good time to spend. Despite further declines in manufacturing activity and political uncertainties around Brexit, both Germany and the UK saw a modest improvement from the previous quarter. Greece experienced a large improvement of 12 points. However, the Euro Area average was held back by large declines in the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain. Beyond the Euro Area, confidence in the broader European region also showed robust gains in Ukraine and Russia.
Consumers in Asia-Pacific remain among the most confident globally, but differences across countries have increased. Consumers in the largest emerging markets (China, India and Indonesia) are very positive, despite experiencing some softening in confidence. Other markets, including South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, experienced declines in confidence levels. Hong Kong saw the largest decline across all regions, the result of political unrest in this market.
In North America, optimism about jobs declined modestly, but consumers are unlikely to curb spending. Canadian consumers have shown improvement in confidence, following a drop in the previous quarter. However, with moderate growth prospects and Canada’s high exposure to political and trade risks, consumers are likely to remain vigilant about spending in the coming months.
Job Security, Economic Concerns Bear Close Watching; Global Warming Concerns on the Rise
When asked specifically about their first and second biggest concerns, global consumers cited the economy and job security. Going forward, this growing economic anxiety could impact consumers’ perceptions of whether it’s a good time to spend.
At the same time, however, fewer consumers in North America, the Euro Area and the mature economies of Asia-Pacific have changed their spending or saving habits. Also, an increasing share of consumers in these regions are putting extra cash into stocks/mutual funds, which suggests some confidence that economic and financial conditions will not worsen dramatically.
In North America, Asia-Pacific and several European economies, there seems to be a gradually waning interest in spending disposable income on new clothing. Spending on new technology, however, recovered from its slight recent softness, particularly in Asia-Pacific and North America.
In addition to economic concerns, global warming has been a rising concern across the world over the past several quarters. The levels and increases are particularly notable in North America and the Euro Area.
Other Regional Highlights for the Third Quarter of 2019
While confidence increased slightly in Latin America, divergences among countries in the region have also increased. With improved sentiments regarding job prospects and spending, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina experienced the largest increases in consumer confidence in the region, although confidence in Argentina remains very low. In contrast, Peru and Chile saw the second and third largest declines in consumer confidence globally. Peru is experiencing political instability. In Chile, there are heightened concerns about rising unemployment, weakening consumer demand, and trade disruption in key commodities.
Confidence in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declined. Despite continued optimism about job prospects, consumers across all six markets surveyed in Africa & the Middle East cited job security as their top concern, which may spur more cautious spending decisions.
Index is Recent Addition to The Conference Board’s Economic Indicators Program
The Global Consumer Confidence Index is a recent addition to The Conference Board’s portfolio of economic indicators, which includes the Consumer Confidence Index for the US, The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, the Employment Trends Index, The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® Index, and Leading Economic Indexes for 12 countries, the Euro Area and globally.
The Global Consumer Confidence Index, based on online responses from 32,000 consumers in 64 markets throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and North America, was acquired from Nielsen, which first began the survey in 2005. Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch, continues to collaborate with The Conference Board on conducting the global survey.
The series for the world, the 64 markets covered and regional aggregates as well as information on several components of the index, including job prospects, personal finances and spending intentions, are released on a timely basis in summary format to the public during the first two weeks of each quarter. Detailed data series are made available on a complimentary basis to members of The Conference Board.
About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org.
Nielsen Holdings plc is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers watch and buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services for all devices on which content — video, audio and text — is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen also provides its clients with analytics that help improve performance. Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.