Global Consumer Confidence Stabilizing, Poll Shows

Global consumer confidence is stabilizing after falling for 18 months, providing a glimmer of hope for a shattered world economy in which three quarters of households cut spending, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Some 40 percent of consumers blame the banking and finance industry for the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, while 19 percent also hold former U.S. President George W. Bush's administration and their own governments responsible, the Ipsos/Reuters poll of 23 countries found.

The survey of 23,000 people, conducted between April 14 and May 7, showed 29 percent thought that the economic situation in their country is very good or somewhat good, only a slight dip from 31 percent in November 2008, but well down on 43 percent in April 2008 and 54 percent in October 2007.

"It looks like we have hit bottom and so there are glimmers of hope," said Clifford Young of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, the international market research and polling company that carried out the online poll.

"What we're seeing is that consumers for the most part have been scared, they have cut expenditures and increased savings," he said. "The uptick won't be as fast as the decline, but if the United States is stabilized that's really important in the global sense."

Ipsos polled people in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, India, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and Britain.

"The stabilization is basically happening in the United States, India and China and that has staunched a bit the bleed around the world," Young said. "That being said Europe is still dicey as well as Brazil and Russia."

In the United States, which sparked the global economic downturn, consumer confidence rose two percentage points to 13 percent, while in China it jumped to 61 percent from 46 percent and in India it increased five points to 70 percent.

The effect of the financial crisis has lagged in Brazil, but consumer confidence in Latin America's largest economy dropped to 56 percent from 61 percent in the past six months, while Russian optimism fell to 35 percent from 52 percent and Europe dropped nine points to 23 percent.

"It's an issue of confidence in institutions," Young said of the continued fall in Europe. "For better or worse in the United States the people saw the government taking extreme actions. Though this happened in Europe it happened less so."

The 23 countries polled make up 75 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

Cuts in household spending have remained constant during the past six months with entertainment, vacations and luxury items the first to go for nearly three quarters of families followed by clothing for 61 percent, energy consumption for 53 percent and gasoline/driving for 42 percent.

Respondents in the online poll were recruited and screened, the survey said. The results are then balanced by age, gender, city population and education levels. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.