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Global consumer confidence started 2015 in optimistic tone

Staff writer |
Global consumer confidence started 2015 with an index score of 97, an increase of one point from Q4 2014 and from a year-ago, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions.

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The Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions among more than 30,000 respondents with Internet access in 60 countries.

The good news is that, compared to the end of last year when all regional confidence scores declined, it was a more upbeat start to the year, as confidence increased slightly or remained stable in every region except Latin America.

Consumer confidence remained steady in North America (106) and increased one point in Asia-Pacific, posting the highest quarterly regional index score of 107. Confidence in the Middle East/Africa (96) and Europe (77) edged up one point in the first quarter but decreased two points in Latin America (86)—the region’s lowest score since 2011.

Among the world’s largest economies, consumer confidence increased most in Japan, rising nine points to 82 in the first quarter, which was the country’s highest score since 2005 - the start of Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index measurement.

Germany also reached a milestone: Sentiment increased two points to reach the baseline score of 100. Confidence also increased one point in the U.S. (107), three points in the U.K. (97) and three points in France (60). Conversely, confidence in China decreased one point to 106 from fourth-quarter 2014.

Global discretionary spending intentions declined or remained steady in the first quarter across all lifestyle categories measured. About three-in-10 global respondents (32%) planned to spend on holidays/vacations, new clothes (31%) and out-of-home entertainment (28%), quarterly declines of two, three and two percentage points, respectively.

Spending intentions for paying credit cards and debts (25%) and new technology products (24%) held steady from the previous quarter. Millennial respondents - especially those in the 25-29 age range - exceeded the global averages by as much 10 percentage points for these discretionary spending activities. These consumers who are just starting their careers often do not yet have families to support and have more freedom to spend.

Global saving intentions, on the other hand, showed a slight increase of two percentage points for investing in stocks and mutual funds (22%) and one percentage point for retirement savings (11%) from fourth-quarter 2014. About half of global respondents planned to bank their spare cash (48%), no change from the previous quarter, while 14% said they had no spare cash, up from 13% the previous quarter.

More than one-quarter of those aged 55+ said they had no spare cash (22%) - the highest percentage of any age group. A promising sign for the future, however, is that more than half of respondents in the 21-34 age range (53%) said they were saving their money.

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