Consumer Confidence Gains as Taiwan, U.S. Rise in Nielsen Survey

Global consumer confidence rose in the first quarter as improvements in the U.S. economy and continued growth in Asian markets brought sentiment levels to the highest level since the global recession began, according to a survey by Nielsen Holdings NV.

Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, said its index of consumer confidence rose five points in the period to 94. The company surveyed more than 28,000 online customers in 56 countries from Feb. 10 to Feb. 27, with sentiment increasing in 38 of those markets compared to the three months through December, according to an e-mailed statement.

North America rose eight points to 92 in the period, its highest level since the quarter ended September 2007, as job prospects and confidence on personal finances improved. Europe is the most pessimistic region at 72 points, though confidence increased in 16 out of 27 markets there, and Asia-Pacific continues to be the most optimistic area at 103 points.

“Households around the world experienced a brighter situation in terms of jobs and personal finances last quarter, especially in the U.S. and Asia,” Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at Nielsen’s Cambridge Group unit, said in a statement. “Underlying economic conditions however are still fragile and fluid in many parts of the world which could affect confidence and spending momentum in the next quarter.”

Europe’s financial crisis widened between “debt ridden southern nations” and the strengthening central and northern countries, Nielsen said. The U.K., at six points, recorded the joint fifth highest global increase, despite falling into its first double dip recession since the 1970s during the quarter.

Greece, Italy Suffer

Greece, Italy, Spain and France recorded their lowest confidence levels as employment prospects fell, while Hungary is the most pessimistic country in the world at 32 points. The biggest confidence fall in the first quarter was in Australia which fell eight points as banks increased mortgage interest rates.

At the other end of the index, India is the most optimistic country in the world with a reading of 123, and Taiwan had the biggest gain in the quarter at 13 points to reach 84.

The survey, established in 2004, has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 0.6 percent, it said. Scores above and below a baseline of 100 show degrees of optimism and pessimism.

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