HK outlook has moved from severe pessimism to optimism, survey finds Consumer confidence in Hong Kong has seen the biggest turnaround in the region, surging more than three-fold since the depths of the Sars crisis, according to a survey by MasterCard International. The twice-yearly survey, which polled nearly 5,500 people in 13 cities across the region, also found that throughout Asia consumer confidence had risen to levels not seen since before the 1997 Asian economic crisis. After five consecutive surveys showed a pessimistic outlook, MasterCard said confidence in Hong Kong stood at 81.1 for the fourth quarter of last year, three times higher than the 23.2 figure recorded six months earlier, when it found the city to be one of the most pessimistic in the region. A rating of 100 represents most optimistic, while 50 denotes a neutral outlook. The credit card company said the latest reading was the second-highest level on record for Hong Kong. For the first time since 2001, Hongkongers were feeling confident in all five categories of the survey - employment, the economy, regular income, the stock market and quality of life. MasterCard analysts who conducted the survey said they were astonished by the turnaround from the first half of last year, when regional economies were mired in fears over the Sars outbreak, the Iraq war and the threat of terrorist attacks. MasterCard economic adviser for Asia-Pacific, Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, said: 'This is a tremendous rebound'. He added the rest of the year held a 'robust and bullish outlook for Greater China', including Taiwan and Hong Kong. 'I think that last year, Sars, Iraq and the soft United States economy all affected Hong Kong's consumer confidence. But this is a forward-looking survey and all that is past now, so there is renewed confidence,' Mr Hedrick-Wong said. 'There is also a new realisation by Hong Kong that it is tied to China, it's not a competitor, and that China's [economic] strength is part and parcel of Hong Kong's success,' he said. Mr Hedrick-Wong said China's economic outlook was also positive and fears of its economy overheating were overblown. 'Corporate profits are still rising, so we do not have a case of overinvestment in China, as inflation is low. With the right policies, China can continue to grow [for] a long time,' he said. The mainland's consumer confidence rated 83.7 on the index, while the average figure across the region was 64.9. MasterCard senior vice-president Stuart McDonald said: 'The substantive gain in consumer sentiment in most Asia-Pacific markets from six months ago demonstrates the region's remarkable recovery and growth prospects.' The latest MasterCard survey follows another confidence survey released two weeks ago by research companies Taylor Nelson Sofres and Gallup International, which found Hong Kong to be the most economically confident city in the world. This study found about 76 per cent of Hongkongers surveyed believed this year would be better than last year.