Economy

US consumer optimism grows despite global gloom, survey shows

Key Points
  • December saw a 0.1-point drop from the previous month, taking the reading to 48.5 and rounding off a 1.0-point fall in the global index over the past three months.
  • Only two countries saw material improvements in their national index score over the past three months: U.S. confidence grew by 1.6 points, while Hungary jumped 3.0 points.

Consumer confidence worldwide reached its lowest point in over two years in December, but the U.S. shook off the gloom to rise significantly over the final quarter of 2019, according to the Ipsos Global Consumer Confidence Index.

December saw a 0.1-point drop from the previous month, taking the reading to 48.5 and rounding off a 1.0-point fall in the global index over the past three months.

The decline has been driven by substantial drops in 11 of the 24 markets measured by the index at a national level, with economic faith in Poland, Turkey and Sweden falling 3.5, 3.4 and 3.2 points respectively. Mainland China, Belgium, Spain, Australia, France and Saudi Arabia also declined.

Only two countries saw material improvements in their national index score over the past three months: U.S. confidence grew by 1.6 points, while Hungary jumped 3.0 points.

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The U.S. increase was led by its jobs index, with American employees' confidence in their job security and employment outlook showing 3.1-point gains, the largest of any measured nation.

Amid fears of a global slowdown, economic stagnation in Europe and billions of dollars' worth of impact from the trade war, the U.S. economy and its stock market have remained resolute.

Clifford Young, president of U.S. Ipsos Public Affairs, told CNBC on Wednesday that this should likely carry over into 2020.

"Global consumer confidence has lost some of its bullishness over the last year. This reflects general geopolitical and economic uncertainty which has now found its way into the consumer's calculus. The most notable exception is the U.S. where confidence is holding strong," Young said.

Despite its decline on the back of weaker data and the increasingly painful squeeze of Beijing's protracted trade war with Washington, mainland China again topped the consumer confidence leaderboard with a score of 69.1, followed by Saudi Arabia on 62.8 and the U.S. on 61.9.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Turkey sits at the foot of the index on 33.7, below Argentina on 37.8 and Russia on 38.1.

The Consumer Confidence index reflects attitudes on the current and future state of the local economy, consumers' personal finance situations, savings and confidence to make substantial investments.

The figures are based on the Refinitiv/Ipsos Primary Consumer Sentiment Index (PCSI), which is collected monthly from a survey of over 17,500 adults in each of its 24 markets. Monthly representative samples consist of 1,000+ individuals in each of these markets.

A "phase one" trade deal between the U.S. and China now agreed and is expected to be inked in January, offering the global economy some respite after a bruising 18 months of tit-for-tat trade tariff escalations.