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Global Consumer Confidence Falls to Record Low: Nielsen

56% of Global Online Consumers Believe Their Country Is In Recession

New Zealand, USA And Latvia Record Steepest Declines In Confidence In Past Six Months; Norway And India Remain World’s Most Optimistic

Hong Kong, May 29, 2008-   Fifty six percent of global online consumers think their country is currently in recession and consumer confidence worldwide has fallen to its lowest level in several years, according to the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index, which measures the confidence, major concerns and spending habits of online consumers in 511 countries. 

The latest Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 88 - down six points in the last six months – the largest single drop the Index has recorded in the last three years.

“Consumer confidence fell in 39 out of 482 countries in the past six months, with New Zealand, USA and Latvia suffering the deepest declines,” said David Parma, global head of Customized Research, The Nielsen Company.  Among the 39 markets recording a decline in consumer confidence, 15 fell by double-digits.

“The last six months have been the most turbulent period for the global economy in several decades. When the USA sneezed at the outset of the sub prime disaster nearly a year ago – the rest of the world quickly caught a cold.  No region and no country have been spared the domino effect of the US sub-prime and credit crisis.”

“Consumers around the world are struggling with the same global issues that are impacting their daily lives. It’s an unfortunate pendulum. On the one hand we are seeing soaring global oil prices, rising commodity prices which are impacting grocery prices, rising interest rates and increasing inflation.  This is happening in tandem with falling property prices, weakening labor markets, decreasing industrial output levels and growing unemployment rates which have all resulted in less spending power for the average person.  Overall, it’s not a good picture,” commented Parma. 

Across the regions, the US suffered the biggest fall in Confidence Index, dropping 17 points, while in Europe, the Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index dropped six points to 83. Nielsen Consumer Confidence Indices dropped three points in Asia Pacific and EEMEA, and two points in Latin America.  

The optimistic few
Only Taiwan bucked the global trend of economic gloom, posting a buoyant 14 point increase in Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index in the past six months – up to 83 from 69 points. “Taiwan’s new-found optimism is driven by recent election results and a belief that the new government can inspire confidence and deliver a better future for the country,” said Parma.

Other countries posting an increase in consumer confidence were the Netherlands (+5%), Russia, Poland, Czech Republic (+3%), Brazil (+2%) and Belgium (+1%).  Consumer confidence remained unchanged in Germany and Indonesia.

Norway, India, Indonesia and Denmark topped global rankings as the most optimistic nations in Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index, while Portugal, Korea and Japan languished at the bottom of rankings as the world’s most pessimistic nations. 

The pessimistic majority
“In the last twelve months, consumer confidence in the world’s second largest economy has plunged 19 points and Japanese consumers are not expecting things to improve anytime soon.   “Japan’s rapidly aging population is matched by a massive pension crisis and Japanese consumers have lost confidence in their government’s ability to resolve this growing problem,” Parma said.

There are extreme levels of consumer pessimism in New Zealand, Latvia and Spain. “Despite low levels of unemployment in New Zealand, consumer confidence has dropped to its lowest level in a decade mainly due to interest rates which have skyrocketed to 8.25 percent - one of the highest in the developed world.  Meanwhile, Latvians are struggling to cope with runaway inflation which increased to 17.5 percent in April – the highest inflation rate among the 27 EU nations.  Electricity costs have risen nearly forty percent in Latvia in the past year and food prices are up twenty percent,” said Parma.

In Western Europe, consumer confidence took the biggest tumble in Spain (down 16 points) and the UK (down 15 points). In the last twelve months, Spain has suffered the biggest fall in consumer confidence globally, with a drop of 24 points.

Consumer confidence in Italy, which suffered the biggest drop in consumer confidence in the previous survey, fell a further four points from 80 to 76 points, and nine in 10 Italians believe their nation is currently in recession.

“Consumers have many reasons to feel pessimistic right now and the stark reality is that there’s not much out there to feel optimistic about.  It’s not surprising that three in five (56%) global consumers think their country is currently in a recession. “Even if their country is not officially in recession and has not recorded two quarters of negative growth – the snowball effect of the credit crunch and rising inflation has taken its toll and officially or otherwise – they certainly feel like they’re in recession,” said Parma.

For many emerging countries in Eastern Europe and Asia that have enjoyed the fruits of economic growth and boom in recent years, the last six months have been a stark wake-up call as consumers find themselves struggling with double-digit inflation, rising unemployment rates and stagflation for the first time in a decade.

In addition to escalating global issues that have impacted everyday lives, many countries are grappling with serious domestic troubles of their own – increasing immigration concerns in UK and Italy, power shortages and rising crime in South Africa, loss of confidence in political stability and strikes in Europe, and the devastating effects of natural disasters in Asia.

No spare cash once all the basics covered
And while the credit crunch became an unwelcome household term in the last year, consumers’ wages and pay packets have been stretched to the maximum like never before.   In the latest Nielsen survey, one in five (26%) Portuguese and one in four Americans said they have “no spare cash” after monthly essentials have been paid.  One in five Belgians, Germans and French also said they have “no spare cash” along with 22 percent of UK consumers. 

But only one in ten consumers anticipate a global recession in 2009
Among the 44 percent of global consumers who do not think their country is currently in recession, only 26 percent said they expected to see a full blown global recession in the next year.  

Topping global rankings for least expecting a global recession are Russians, South Koreans and Vietnamese – about 60 percent said they do not expect a global recession in the next year.

In contrast, the Nordic nations of Denmark (50%), Norway (46%) and Finland (45%) – countries that have always topped the Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index for their optimism – are most expectant that the world will be plunged into a global recession in the coming year. 

Forty-seven percent of Singaporeans are also bracing themselves for a global recession, along with 38 percent of Indians and one in three Italians.

During times of economic slowdown, global consumers rank inflation as their biggest concern (61%) followed by unemployment (53%).  Consumers in EEMEA (69%) and APAC (67%) lead the world as most concerned about inflation during an economic downturn, while Latin Americans are most concerned about unemployment (62%) and interest rate rises (32%).  Not surprising, North Americans topped global regions for concern about falling property prices (24%) while one in 10 (11%) Europeans said they would also be concerned about strikes.


1 51 Markets Covered: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia,Czech Republic, Denmark,  Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom, US, Venezuela and Vietnam.

2 Three markets – Colombia, Venezuela & Israel – added in April 2008; no trend data available from previous survey.

About The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey

The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Customized Research, was conducted in April 2008 among 28,253 internet users in 51 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the Middle East. The largest half-yearly survey of its kind, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Confidence and Opinion Survey provides insight into current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and the major concerns of consumers across the globe. The Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index is developed based on consumers’ confidence in the job market, status of their personal finances and readiness to spend.

About The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions and recognized brands in marketing information (ACNielsen), media information (Nielsen Media Research), online intelligence (NetRatings and BuzzMetrics), trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in Haarlem, the Netherlands, and New York, USA. For more information, please visit www.nielsen.com.

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