Consumers in most countries globally look set to keep a tight grip on spending in coming months as they worry about job security and rising inflation, a survey by the Nielsen Company showed on Sunday.
U.S. consumer confidence in the fourth quarter held steady from the third quarter but 45 percent of Americans see a weak economic environment this year, compared with 38 percent of Europeans and 19 percent of consumers in the Asia Pacific.
“The U.S. jobless rate remains at the heart of the issue for Americans,” said James Russo, vice president of The Nielsen Company. “It has topped 9 percent for 20 months straight, which is the longest streak on record.”
Consumer confidence was positive at the end of last year in only 14 out of 52 countries surveyed worldwide. The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index’s average score, however, was unchanged from the third quarter at 90, helped by sharp jumps in confidence in Norway, Turkey and Switzerland as well as the Philippines.
A reading below 100 signals pessimism about the outlook.
India came top, improving on its third quarter reading. Still, India’s index reading of 129 was well below the country’s record 137 index reading in the second half of 2006, the highest reading for any country since the Nielsen consumer confidence index was launched in 2005.
Confidence was lowest in Croatia followed by Portugal, which has imposed austerity measures as it struggles to slash high debt.
Consumer confidence in Greece slumped from the third quarter as the country continued to grapple with its debt burden while Ireland, which was forced to follow Greece and seek an international bailout late last year was also in the 10 least optimistic markets.
“Global consumers — especially in the West, are bracing themselves for another year of flat to sluggish growth in 2011,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a unit of The Nielsen Company.