Consumer confidence down in Singapore: Surveys

Singaporeans have gone from being optimistic about the economic future to being neutral, according to the MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence.
Singaporeans have gone from being optimistic about the economic future to being neutral, according to the MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Amid global economic uncertainty, Singaporeans have gone from being optimistic about the near future to being merely neutral about it, according to the MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence for the second half of 2015, released on Thursday (Feb 18).

On the index, where zero indicates the most pessimism and 100 the most optimism, Singapore scored 44.3, down 20.9 points from the last survey for the first half of 2015.

This took it below the 60-point optimism mark into neutral territory, said MasterCard. The fall was led by worsening hopes for the stock market, economy and employment.

The survey was conducted in 17 Asia-Pacific markets at the end of 2015, with 8,779 respondents asked for their six-month outlook on five economic factors: the economy, employment prospects, regular income prospects, the stock market and their quality of life.

From the first half to the second half of 2015, Singaporeans became more pessimistic about each of the five factors.

But respondents under 30 years old were more optimistic, scoring 55.6 on the index overall, compared with the pessimistic 39.3 score of those aged 30 and older.

Younger respondents were also more optimistic on each individual factor. For instance, they were optimistic about regular income with a score of 70, compared with older respondents' neutral score of 53.8.

Younger respondents also scored 71.7 for their outlook on their quality of life, compared with just 42.7 for older respondents.

Singapore was far from alone in its pessimistic turn, with 12 of the 17 markets covered seeing confidence levels fall. Respondents under 30 also remained more optimistic in 12 out of 17 markets.

"Asia-Pacific, as a whole, is experiencing uncertainty in the economic environment," said MasterCard Singapore group head and general manager Deborah Heng. "The optimism of the younger generation is the silver lining to what would otherwise be a gloomy outlook."

Consumer confidence also dipped according to the latest Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending, released earlier this month.

In the last quarter of 2015, consumer confidence in Singapore fell to 94, lower than the global average of 97. Levels over the baseline of 100 are considered optimistic and those below 100, pessimistic.

Nielsen's managing director for Singapore and Malaysia Joan Koh noted that this sentiment was occurring against a backdrop of tepid global demand and expected modest economic growth.

The Nielsen index measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions. Singaporeans' top concerns were job security and the economy, with 40 per cent of respondents expressing "recessionary sentiment", up from 30 per cent in the preceding quarter.

"Layoffs in the financial sector due to a changing business environment, weak macroeconomy and higher costs have also added to the rising concerns of job security and a lacklustre economy," said Ms Koh.

Consumers have cut spending as a result, particularly on new clothes, holidays and out-of-home entertainment, according to the Nielsen survey.