Consumer confidence in Malaysia is lowest since financial crisis; most of Southeast Asia thinks their country is in recession

Consumer confidence levels in Malaysia have fallen to their lowest level since the global financial crisis in 2009, according to new figures from research firm Nielsen.

Malaysia is the least confident Southeast Asian country at present, with consumer confidence way below the global average in the last quarter of 2014. While the other Asean nations in the study are more confident than the average consumer globally – particularly in Indonesia – people in four out of the six countries surveyed think their country is going through an economic recession, so are curbing spending habits.

Consumer confidence in Southeast Asia

Source: Nielsen

“Overall, consumers’ confidence levels across the region remain relatively stable,” said Vishal Bali, MD of Nielsen’s Consumerisation Practice in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific. “Consumers in Southeast Asia continue to be among the most confident nation globally. The only exception is Malaysia which recorded the lowest confidence level since Q2 2009 – likely due to consumers feeling the pressure of the introduction of GST later this year and uncertainty around any potentially impact on the price of goods and the cost of living.”

More than six in 10 consumers in Malaysia (65 per cent) and Philippines (62 per cent) are spending less on new clothing, while 60 per cent of Vietnamese and 56 per cent of Thais and Malaysians have cut down on out-of-home entertainment to reduce household expenses.

People in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam believe their country is going through a recession hence the belt tightening, the survey found.

Other areas where consumers are cutting back include delaying upgrading of technology, switching to cheaper grocery brands, saving on petrol and electricity usage and reducing holidays and short breaks.

“While consumer confidence is relatively stable across Southeast Asia, consumers are expressing concern around areas such as job security and economic health, and as a result they are cautious with their spending,” said Bali. “There is a collective sense of debt-avoidance in the region, and this is resulting in subdued purchasing of big ticket items.”

Where are consumers spending their spare cash?

Where are consumers spending their spare cash?

The economy was the top concern for consumers in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia while Singapore and the Philippines shared the same main worry – job security.

Nielsen survey

The report is roughly in line with a consumer confidence survey released by credit card firm MasterCard earlier this month, which found that confidence levels had fallen in Asia overall – particularly in Malaysia.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions launched in 2005 to measures consumer confidence and spending intent among around 30,000 respondents with internet access in 60 countries.


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