Malaysian consumer confidence at 10-year low

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian consumer confidence index for Q3 2015 slipped to a 10-year low of 78 percentage points (pp), compared to 89 pp in the previous quarter, according to the latest Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions.

In comparison, confidence levels in Southeast Asia remained relatively high with five out of six countries in the region scoring above the 100 pp mark, except for Malaysia.

The Philippines (117 pp, -5 from last quarter), Indonesia (116 pp, -4), Thailand (111 pp, unchanged from previous quarter) and Vietnam (105 pp, +1) are among the top 10 most confident countries globally while Singapore scored 101 pp (+2), said Nielsen.

Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

“The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) score for Malaysia decreased 11 pp in the third quarter to a score of 78 – the lowest score in Nielsen’s 10 year CCI history since we started the global online survey on consumer confidence and spending intentions back in 2005.” said Nielsen Malaysia country manager Richard Hall in a statement released on Tuesday.

He added that this was driven by increased consumer concern over the economic outlook, the declining value of the ringgit and the country’s political stability.

The survey measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 30,000 respondents with Internet access in 60 countries. 

The economic outlook remains Malaysian consumers’ key concern with over three in five respondents being worried about the nation’s financial conditions, about a third of the respondents have said political stability is now second most worrying followed by job security and increasing food prices.

Moreover, 89% of Malaysian consumers think that the nation is currently in an economic recession.

“In Malaysia, the currency devaluation of at least 25% has potentially impacted the general perception of the economic strength of the country, while the actual impact in terms of rising prices due to import costs has not yet hit the consumers’ pockets,” said Hall. 

Malaysia ranked seventh globally in terms of consumers putting away spare cash into savings. 

Vietnamese continued to rank first when it comes to stashing spare cash into savings followed by Indonesians. 

Joining the top 10 countries globally in savings includes the Philippines at fifth place, Singapore at sixth place, and Malaysia and Thailand tied on seventh place.

On average, only 52% of global consumers set aside any spare cash for savings.

A third of Malaysian consumers are also using extra monies to invest in stocks or mutual funds and retirement funds. Over two in five Malaysians are paying off debts, credit cards and loans with any unutilised money.

However, Malaysian consumers also indulge in big ticket items such as holidays and vacations, out-of-home entertainment and new technology products.

Nielsen said Malaysian consumers are becoming more frugal and cautious about their spending habits in view of the increasing general cost of living in the country. Nearly nine in 10 Malaysian consumers have changed their spending habits in the past year to increase household savings.

“There seems to be limited scope for optimism as far as consumer confidence is concerned. At present, the real concerns for Malaysians are economic worries and job security. If the ringgit continues to remain at a low, then we foresee that consumer confidence will remain at its current level going forward.” said Hall.
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