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Chinese consumer sentiment indicator slumps in October

A worker polishes steel coils at a factory of Dongbei Special Steel Group in Dalian, China.
China Daily | Reuters
A worker polishes steel coils at a factory of Dongbei Special Steel Group in Dalian, China.

Consumer sentiment in China plunged in October, as the outlook for business conditions plummeted and household finances weakened, a survey showed Wednesday.

The Westpac MNI China Consumer Sentiment Indicator fell to 109.7 in October from 118.2 in September, marking the lowest reading since the survey began in 2007.

Business outlook over the coming year was the hardest hit, with Business Conditions in One Year registering a 10.3 percent decline, while the Business Conditions in Five Years component fell 8.2 percent. Current and expected measures for household finances were also weaker, down 5.3 percent and 7.3 percent respectively.

The survey is taken from consumers across 30 Chinese cities ranging from tier 1 to tier 3. Respondents said that they were planning on reducing their shopping and entertainment activities in the near term.

"This result openly questions the resilience of the Chinese consumer to the discouraging state of the real economy," said Huw McKay, senior international economist at Westpac.

The survey follows China's gross domestic product release last week, which showed the world's second largest economy grew by 6.9 percent in the three months through September, the slowest pace since 2009.

Concerns over the health of the Chinese economy have spilled from Chile to Korea, sparking a sharp sell-off in the price of commodities that Chinese factories traditionally consume in hefty amounts, as well as the currencies of the countries that benefit from selling raw materials to China.

Beijing has taken a series of steps to get the economy out of its funk.

China's central bank cut interest rates for the sixth time since November on Friday. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) lowered the one-year benchmark bank lending rate by 25 basis points to 4.35 percent, effective from Oct. 24. The one-year benchmark deposit rate was also lowered by 25 basis points to 1.50 percent.

The drop in confidence was most acute among in the 35-to-54-year-old group, with sentiment plunging 11.2 percent between September and October. In contrast, confidence among the youngest and oldest age cohorts (18-34 and 55-64) declined more moderately by 3.3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively, Wesptac said in a statement.

Historically, the younger cohort has been more optimistic than their middle-aged counterparts, although the gap had narrowed recently as people in the 35-54 age bracket became a little more confident about their futures prospects. Still, Westpac noted that the findings of the age cohorts were pretty volatile.