More than half (55%) of respondents around the world believed they were in recession in the fourth quarter of 2015, a modest increase from the start of that year (53%)—and a level that often exceeds official economic definitions. Recessionary sentiment was strongest and above 90% in Venezuela (96%), Ukraine (95%), Brazil (93%) and South Korea (91%). Sentiment was lowest and below 40% in China (29%), Czech Republic (33%), Denmark (34%), New Zealand (37%) and Germany (38%).
Recessionary sentiment improved most in Latvia (59%, -11pp), Estonia (46%, -10pp), Italy (80%, -9pp) and the U.S. (47%, -8pp) from the third quarter. Conversely, fourth-quarter recessionary sentiment worsened most in Sweden (62%, +13pp), Singapore (40%, +10pp), United Arab Emirates (53%, +10pp) and Norway (63%, +10pp).
In the U.S., the percentage who believed they were in recession fell under 50% for the first time since 2008, when Nielsen began tracking recessionary sentiment. “The U.S. economy is on a solid footing, and the path to recovery is holding steady,” said Louise Keely, senior vice president, Nielsen, and president, The Demand Institute. “American consumers have experienced continued job creation and lower gas prices, along with some wage growth. So it is remarkable that, while the share of consumers who believe the U.S. economy is in recession has fallen steadily, it is still as high as it is. This ‘overestimation’ on the part of consumers is a global phenomenon and reflects the large number of consumers who continue to feel uncertain about their economies overall.”
India’s recessionary sentiment, on the other hand, is notably high (50%) given their optimistic confidence index score of 131. “Indian consumers are confident, but they are not without their worries, and global companies need to serve them with the same degree of smart insight and sophistication as they do consumers in developed markets,” said Keely. “Consumption represents nearly 60% of GDP in the country, so consumers are an important economic driver for India. As both the population and its spending power grow, the Indian market opportunity will be increasingly important to global companies.”
The ups-and-downs seen at the country level reflect a larger picture of recessionary sentiment within the regions measured in the survey. Since the beginning of 2015, increased recessionary sentiment was seen in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa/Middle East, while slight improvements were seen in North America and Europe.
Other findings from the fourth-quarter Consumer Confidence Index include:
- Global consumer confidence declined two points from the third quarter to 97 – the same score as the start of the year.
- Cutting back on out-of-home entertainment was one of the top three savings strategies in every region in the fourth quarter, with the highest level reported in Latin America (53%).
- Fears about terrorism escalated to new highs in North America and Europe.
- Consumer confidence in the fourth quarter increased in 26 of 61 markets measured by Nielsen (43% of measured markets).
- Consumer confidence in all three sub-Saharan markets measured by Nielsen (Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya) finished 2015 above an index score of 100.