SINGAPORE: Consumer confidence in Southeast Asia remains generally high, with the region amongst the most optimistic globally, an exception being Malaysia which saw a sharp decline in the third quarter, according to researcher Nielsen.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions amongst more than 30,000 respondents with internet access in 60 countries.

The Malaysian consumer confidence index for the third quarter fell to a ten-year low of 78, down 11 points on the previous quarter and down 21 points year-on-year. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

"This has been mainly driven by consumers increase in concerns on the economic outlook, the declining value of the ringgit and increasing concerns over the country's political stability," Richard Hall, Nielsen Malaysia's country manager, told Marketing.

The economy remains the biggest issue, cited by 61% of Malaysian consumers compared to 43% in the second quarter, while political stability has risen up the agenda, from sixth to second place – 34% referenced this in the third quarter compared to just 13% in the second.

Consequently, spending is not at the forefront of their minds: spare cash is more likely to go into savings (64%) or paying off debts and loans (45%), while stock investments (33%) and retirement funds (28%) are also popular destinations.

Those consumer categories best placed to benefit from spending by Malaysian consumers are holidays (42%) and clothes (16%).

The other five of the six SEA countries considered all scored above 100 on the consumer confidence index and four remain in the top ten most globally confident nations.

The Philippines remains the most optimistic scoring 117, down from 122 in the second quarter, followed by Indonesia (116, down four points), Thailand (steady on 111), Vietnam (105, up one point) and Singapore (101, up two points).

The average global consumer confidence index is 99, up three points on the second quarter.

Data sourced from Marketing; additional content by Warc staff