Consumer confidence is strongest in emerging Asia, Brazil and Australia, but weakened slightly in the United States in the fourth quarter as Americans worried about job security, a survey showed on Wednesday.
Consumer sentiment was highest in Indonesia, followed by India and Brazil, and was weakest in Japan and South Korea, according to the survey conducted by the New York-based Nielsen Company a month ago.
Globally, the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index averaged a reading of 87 points in the fourth quarter, little changed from the third quarter but 5 points higher than the second quarter.
The U.S. reading dipped to 82 in the fourth quarter from 84 three months earlier, reflecting concern about rising unemployment and ranking U.S. confidence at 18th among the 29 markets surveyed worldwide.
Many analysts believe a decisive rebound in U.S. consumer spending is vital for a sustained global economy recovery.
Consumer confidence was relatively high in Australia, the Philippines and China and in other markets that are recovering fastest from the global economic slump.
The survey, which covered more than 17,500 consumers, showed the United Arab Emirates suffered the biggest drop in confidence, by 10 points to 92, as a debt crisis erupted in Dubai.
Asia-Pacific economies are rebounding much more quickly than Western economies and Brazil and Canada were the only countries outside the Asia-Pacific that ranked in the top 10 most confident markets.
The top readings, though, were well below India's record 137 index reading in the second half of 2006, the highest reading since the index's launch in 2005.
The Nielsen survey shows that in the past six months, consumers have become more optimistic about their countries emerging from recession with better job prospects and personal finances. This is another sign that global recovery is heading in the right direction, said James Russo, a vice president of Nielsen.
However, while purse strings may be loosening in some markets, there is clearly a big difference in the pace of expected recovery between the emerging and developed markets, and consumers' increased confidence is not yet translating into a widespread readiness to start spending.
Confidence in Japan was weakest at 47 points, down from 49 in the third quarter. Sentiment in Korea dropped 5 points to 48 points by the fourth quarter although recent economic data has suggested Asia's fourth-largest economy is on a firm recovery path.