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Consumer Confidence In Taiwan And Korea

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Consumer confidence in Taiwan and Korea has dropped to its lowest level in the last three years, according to MasterCard International’s latest bi-annual MasterIndex survey of consumer confidence in the Asia/Pacific region. (See editor’s note on MasterIndex system).

Although still optimistic at 58.4, the Korean MasterIndex score is down from 71.2 in June 1995, with particular concern about employment (from 58.7 to 39.6) and the stock market (from 60.1 t o 39.6).

The Taiwan MasterIndex of 44.5 is not only at its lowest ever, but is also pessimistic for the first time since the survey began, with employment (from 35.1 to 21.4) and concerns about the economy (from 50.2 to 24.8 ).

Moving in the opposite direction, Japan recorded its highest MasterIndex score to-date with the an increase from 21.9 to 42.6 since last June, fueled by increasing confidence in the economy (from 21.9 to 59) and the stock market (from 24.3 to 65.7).

A similar trend is reported in Hong Kong. While still the lowest MasterIndex score in the region at 37.3, Hong Kong consumers have a more optimistic outlook than their previous score of 31.8 in June 1995, driven primarily by increased confidence about regular income (from 64.8 to 80.1).

The only truly regional trend remains concern about inflation – a feature of all six MasterIndex surveys to-date. The inflation scores range from a very pessimistic 7.9 in Korea to an almost neutral 49 in Japan. No consumers in the region feel confident about inflation prospects in the coming months.

Brian Thom, senior vice president – marketing, Asia Pacific Region, MasterCard International, said: “Not surprisingly, there appears to be a link between political uncertainty and low consumer confidence. In Taiwan there was increasing tension surrounding relations with the PRC around the time of the survey, and in Korea the political corruption scandal was at its height. On the whole, consumers in the region are fairly confident about the coming months, although they remain wary about the threat of rising costs.”

Thailand and Philippines make optimistic debut Filipinos, making their MasterIndex debut, have a positive view on economy (72.8) and regular income (90.3) that has contributed to an optimistic MasterIndex score of 72.3.

Thais, also newcomers to the MasterIndex, are slightly less positive than the Philippines with a MasterIndex of 63.6 – lower primarily due to concern about the economy (56.2) and quality of life (49.6).

Malaysians and Indonesians remain the most optimistic consumers in the region with MasterIndex scores of 90.9 and 89.1 respectively, answering positively on all MasterIndex economic factors.

There is also renewed confidence among Singaporeans, where the MasterIndex has gone from 64.3 to 75.4, as a result of increased confidence about employment (from 57.4 to 74) and the economy (from 53.6 to 67.6).

New Zealand also scored a MasterIndex of 75.4, almost identical to its score of a year ago. Kiwis have been among the most consistently optimistic respondents in the six surveys to-date, continually optimistic on all MasterIndex factors.

Confidence has dropped slightly in India since its 73.4 June 1995 survey debut, although its MasterIndex of 63.6 shows a continued optimistic outlook. Reduced confidence in the stock market, down from 67 to 42.8, has impacted on the MasterIndex score.

Australians, although expressing concern about future employment prospects (from 64.3 to 50), remain cautiously optimistic with a MasterIndex of 61.7, marginally up on their June 1995 score of 61.

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