Consumer confidence at seven-year low: Survey

Singaporeans have changed their outlook for the near future from neutral to pessimistic, with consumer confidence hitting a seven-year low, going by survey findings released yesterday.

According to the MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence, where zero indicates the most pessimism and 100 the most optimism, Singapore scored 33.6 points for the first half of this year.

The score, linked to stagnating global demand and a poor outlook on the labour market, is the lowest since June 2009. After climbing to a four-year high of 65.3 points in the first half of last year, it dipped below the 60-point optimism mark to 44.3 points for the second half amid worsening hopes for the stock market, economy and employment.

The latest survey was conducted between June and July this year, with 8,746 respondents in 17 Asia-Pacific markets polled on their six-month outlook on the economy, employment prospects, regular income prospects, the stock market and quality of life.

Compared with the second half of last year, Singaporeans were less optimistic on all five factors, with confidence dropping most in quality of life, and regular income and employment prospects. The survey showed that overall consumer confidence across the Asia-Pacific region remained relatively stable despite global economic uncertainty, with nine of the 17 markets surveyed recording greater optimism.

Declines were recorded in seven markets, with the biggest drops in Singapore (-10.7 points), Hong Kong (-12.4) and Indonesia (-14.7).

Ms Deborah Heng, country manager for MasterCard Singapore, said that the deterioration in confidence among Singapore consumers "reflects the anticipated weak economic growth in Singapore for 2016, overall pessimism in the business sector, as well as the loss of confidence in the job market".

Consumer confidence here was low but stable for the second quarter, according to the latest Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, released earlier this month.

DBS senior economist Irvin Seah said MasterCard's latest findings were not surprising, given the softening labour market and slowing economic growth: "Consumers will likely rein in discretionary spending on big ticket items, which means bad news for the retail sector."

While recession may not be a broad-based concern yet, fear may spread if job security is seen as under threat, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Consumer confidence at seven-year low: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe