Consumers still confident but rising food prices are a worry, survey shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am

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Consumer confidence in the economy remained stable in the second quarter, at 107 points, after a sharp surge in the first quarter of this year.

That was the latest finding by the Nielsen global online survey, which scores views from 1 to 200, with a score above 100 indicating optimism.

Rising food prices have become people's main concern for the next six months; 40 per cent of respondents cited this as their biggest worry.

With global oil prices continuing to rise, public transport operators in the city had increased fares in the past two month, Oliver Rust, managing director of Nielsen Hong Kong, noted.

This, he said, had put more pressure on consumers who, as a result, were tightening their wallets and trying to reduce their utilities bills.

The survey, conducted online by the global information and measurement company since 2005, monitors the confidence, concerns and spending intentions of 31,000 consumers from 56 countries across the five continents.

The Asia-Pacific remains the least pessimistic region, on 98 points - a nine-point drop from the last survey. European consumers were most pessimistic about the future.

Geoffrey Tso Kwok-fai, an associate professor of management science at City University, said the main cause of inflation was the decreasing value of the US dollar, given the Hong Kong currency's peg to the dollar.

'It makes it more expensive to import our food from China,' said Tso, who was not involved in Nielsen's research.

Hong Kong imports about 90 per cent of its food. Of this, 60 per cent comes from the mainland, according to the Centre for Food Safety.

'Many people from different age and income groups have now started to worry about inflation in the future,' Tso said. He said the survey's results might be too optimistic. 'Online participants tend to be younger and wealthier,' he said.

Consumers have found new ways to tighten their purse strings, with 17 per cent saying they plan to spend less in restaurants. Some 39 per cent said they would buy cheaper brands when grocery shopping.

Happiness seems to be on people's minds as well: balancing life and work was the biggest concern after inflation and the economy. 'People are more concerned about their health now, as we have some of the longest working hours,' said Tso.