Confidence down, but Hongkongers love a bargain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 November, 2008, 12:00am

Worldwide consumer confidence has plunged because of the financial crisis, but many Hongkongers are still willing to shell out money if the price is right, according to a study released yesterday.

The Nielsen Company polled more than 26,000 people in 52 markets and found that consumer confidence around the world was at an all-time low, said the firm, which launched its Global Consumer Confidence study in 2005.

Global consumer confidence peaked in 2006 with an index score of 99 out of 200.

It is now down to 84, with more than 80 per cent of markets seeing a drop in confidence since the first half of the year, the study said.

Reasons for the overall downturn in optimism include the Lehman Brothers meltdown, the AIG bailout and stock market freefalls, said Angel Young Wai-suen, executive director of Nielsen Hong Kong.

There were bright spots, though. Consumers in Brazil, Russia, India and the mainland remained upbeat, as those countries were experiencing growth in export revenue or local demand, Ms Young said.

In Hong Kong, the survey, conducted between September 22 and October 6, found people were still interested in bargains. 'What we are looking at is that Hong Kong, in terms of some fundamentals, was still good, and people still had money in their pockets,' said Ms Young.

'I guess it's a matter of being more prudent in their spending,' she added. 'They still have that sort of spending appetite.'

Additionally, 46 per cent of Hong Kong consumers said they were investing in stocks or mutual funds if they had extra cash, 'which highlights the culture' here, said Ms Young.

'In Hong Kong, people like investing in the stock market to increase their wealth,' she said.

Last year, Hong Kong registered a consumer confidence score of 118 compared to the current tally of 88.

'Starting [in the first half of] '08 ... we were hearing a lot of news about the US subprime issue,' and that was already affecting public sentiment here, said Ms Young.

Hong Kong fell from sixth place to 16th in the new global survey, as many Hongkongers were concerned about the economy, food prices, utility bills and their work-life balance.