International confidence has fallen to 18-month low

GLOBAL consumer confidence fell in the second quarter to its lowest level in a year and a half as an uncertain economic outlook, a deepening Eurozone debt crisis and rising inflation made people more cautious, a survey revealed yesterday.

Consumer sentiment in the United States was weaker than in the second half of 2009 at the height of the global recession, according to Nielsen’s quarterly survey of global consumers.

Globally, consumers plan to tighten their belts in coming months for everything from stock investing to buying clothes, taking holidays and upgrading technology, after being slightly less cautious over the past 12 months, the survey showed.

Of US consumers, 31 per cent said they have no spare cash for discretionary spending. This was the case for 25 per cent of consumers in the Middle East and Africa and 22 per cent of Europeans.

Confidence dipped in China, due to rising inflation, as well as in the Middle East where an initial bounce in consumer morale after social uprisings in the first quarter gave way to caution as the political outlook became unclear and rising prices curbed spending power.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia posted the biggest falls from the first quarter in Nielsen’s ranking of confidence in 56 countries worldwide.

Confidence was lowest in Eurozone countries engulfed by debt, with Greece lowest ranked. Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy were also in the bottom 10.