APAC optimism declines

26 March 2012

SINGAPORE: Consumer sentiment has deteriorated significantly in many Asia Pacific markets, as concerns grow over volatile economic conditions.

A new 14-market survey from financial services provider MasterCard, conducted between December 2011 and February 2012, indicates positive sentiment – signified by an index score of 50 or more – in just five nations.

The results represent a decline from the previous index, run during the first six months of 2011, when 11 markets delivered a positive score.

Between these two reports, the overall index score from across the 14 markets dropped from 57.4 to 52.1. Of the component indicators tracked, particularly sharp falls were noted for employment prospects (which dropped from 56.8 to 49.3) and for the stock market outlook (dropping from 56.7 to 47.9).

Significantly, sentiment regarding the economy "turned negative", falling from 54.8 to 49.3, below the neutral level of 50.

This general decline in optimism indicated by the MasterCard survey reflects broader trends. Recently, a range of economic indicators have signalled slowing GDP growth across emerging Asia.

Public debts in the eurozone and rising commodity prices are other sources of concern for consumers.

"The persistent Europe-centred crisis is a serious drag on global economic growth, which is a headwind common to all markets in the Asia/Pacific region," Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor for MasterCard Worldwide, said.

Nevertheless, the survey also revealed diverging fortunes across the 14 markets measured.

The most optimistic nation was India, where overall confidence increased from 62.8 in the first half of 2011 to 81.2. Other risers included Vietnam (78.8), the Philippines (77.0) and Indonesia (76.2).

But other key economies suffered sharp declines in optimism. Hong Kong's index score plunged from 68.6 to 29.9, while Taiwanese sentiment also turned sharply negative, going from 66.4 to 30.1.

Hedrick-Wong added: "The strong showing of emerging markets like Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India suggests that domestic factors that boost private consumption can make a big difference in sustaining positive consumer sentiments even as overall growth is slowing."

Data sourced from MasterCard; additional content by Warc staff