SINGAPORE: Consumer confidence in Southeast Asia remains high but levelled off in the third quarter, with spending and saving arrangements changing to reflect concerns about personal finances, a new study has found.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, polled more than 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

Indonesia's index score of 120 in Q3 was down four points on the previous quarter but was still the highest worldwide and 26 points above the global average of 94.

A similar pattern was evident in the Philippines, which saw a three point decrease to 118, Thailand, down two points to 112, and Malaysia, down two points to 101.

The two other countries in the region saw increases, however, with confidence in Singapore up three points to 98, and Vietnam up two points to 97.

Matt Krepsik, Executive Director of Nielsen's Marketing Effectiveness business in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific, said it was important to "keep these modest declines in perspective" and suggested there was a "a level of cautious optimism throughout Southeast Asia as consumers balance their expansion of wealth between spending and channelling their spare cash into savings to ensure their future financial security".

After covering essential living expenses, savings were the priority for the region's consumers, with most countries well above the global average index of 52, peaking at 76 in Indonesia.

Consumers were also prepared, to a much lesser extent, to spend on other areas such as holidays and new technology and to invest in stocks and shares. And their spending here was in general more closely aligned with global averages.

Most countries were also significantly above the global index of 64 when it came to changing spending in order to save on household expenses. Consumers in Thailand and Vietnam topped this trend, with an index score of 90.

Fashion and out-of-home entertainment were particular areas where consumers were cutting back. Consumers in Vietnam were the most likely to reduce their spending on new clothes (62%), followed by Malaysia (61%) and the Philippines (61%), while Vietnamese consumers also indicated the strongest inclination to cut back on out-of-home entertainment (60%), followed by Thailand (57%) and Malaysia (52%).

Krepsik noted that consumers in the region were "experience-oriented" and willing to spend on recreational activities, holidays and new technology, while adjusting discretionary spending to save on day-to-day household expenses.

Data sourced from Asia Media Journal; additional content by Warc staff