NEW DELHI: Consumer confidence in India has fallen to its lowest level for the year to date, a trend that could continue as prices rise in the country.

BluFin, the information provider, and TNS, the research firm, polled 4,000 people in 18 cities, and found the regular barometer of popular sentiment reached 36.7 points in September.

This fell considerably below the 50-point benchmark indicating a neutral outlook. It also constituted a slide of 2.9 points month on month, and was thus the worst score delivered during 2012.

At the city level, Mangalore posted the highest figures on 52.5 points, ahead of Hyderabad on 51.3 points and Indore on 50.7 points. Ludhiana, by contrast, logged just 28.1 points, with Patna on 29.6 points.

Elsewhere, pessimism was discernible across almost all of the other indices. When assessing their current circumstances, the sample returned 44 points, off by 2.6 points on August and by 1.7 points since April.

Respondents proved similarly downbeat about their future prospects, yielding 33.7 points. This rating dropped by three points on a monthly basis, and by 3.9 points in the last six months.

Attitudes towards spending were more muted still on 24.3 points, a contraction of 2.2 points measured against August, and by 2.6 points from April.

Interviewees in the south of India registered 34.1 points here, the only region to witness an increase. Their peers in the North recorded 22.2 points, with the west on 21.5 points and the east on 19.5 points.

Concerns linked to inflation are a key driver of this process. Totals regarding this matter stood at 24.2 points, although this did represent a modest 0.7-point improvement compared with six months ago.

Members of the panel remained most upbeat when discussing the employment market, on 42.9 points, but this lagged the longer term average, which comes in at over 45 points.

"The one relatively bright spot aspect of the survey over the last one year, overall employment sentiment, has become more pessimistic, and that is a worrying sign," said Rashid Bilimoria, CEO of BluFin.

"It is also important to note that this month's consumer confidence index does not include consumer reactions to the diesel price hike, so overall I expect consumer sentiment to dampen even further going forward."

Data sourced from BluFin; additional content by Warc staff