By Daniel Hunter

Despite a small rise for the third successive quarter, consumer confidence levels in Europe remain much lower than in every other global region, according to the latest figures from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

European consumer confidence levels are up by one index point on the last quarter to 74 in Q3 2012. However, this is still lower than in Asia Pacific (100), the Middle East/Africa (98), Latin America (94) and North America (91).

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, established in 2005, measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 Internet consumers in 58 countries. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism.

European confidence rises — marginally

Only Europe and North America (up three points) saw consumer confidence levels increase on the previous quarter; Latin America fell two points, while Asia Pacific and the Middle East/Africa remained flat.

Europe accounts for four of the six countries with the largest increases in consumer confidence between Q2 2012 and Q3 2012. Switzerland is the biggest riser among countries measured globally by Nielsen (+10 index points) followed by Belgium (+9), Australia (+8), Thailand (+8), Hungary (+7) and Norway (+7).

Switzerland’s increase to 104 points now reflects that its consumers are the tenth most confident globally — India leads with 119 — while Hungary, despite its rise in confidence, reported the lowest index score among all 58 countries measured by Nielsen.

"The third quarter was subdued, with a degree of restraint among consumers in Europe," Nielsen European president Christophe Cambournac commented.

"The region still faces a tough economic situation, despite some recent stabilising policy initiatives by the European Central Bank. While there are pockets of recovery, growth in Europe is likely to remain a big challenge over the next year, with the major European economies currently in or on the edge of recession."

Job security and the economy remain Europeans biggest concerns
European respondents indicate that their biggest concern is job security (among 16 percent of respondents), followed by the economy (14 percent) and rising utility bills (10 percent). These are bigger concerns to them than issues such as terrorism (three percent), crime and global warming (both two percent).

The number of European respondents who said they believe their country is in a recession increased from 71 percent in Q2 to 75 percent in Q3 — 61 percent of whom say they don’t believe they’ll be out of recession in the next year. Consequently, two-thirds of European online consumers (65 percent) say they have changed their spending habits to save on household expenses. According to survey responses, Greeks (93 percent) are the most likely to do this, Norwegians the least likely (40 percent).

European respondents report that the most popular method of cost cutting is to spend less on new clothes (57 percent), followed by cutting down on out-of-home entertainment activities (53 percent) and switching to cheaper grocery brands (51 percent).

European respondents say they are much less likely to have spare cash once they’ve covered their essential living expenses; 20 percent say they have no spare cash compared to 14 percent globally.

Among European respondents who do have spare cash, one third (33 percent) say they save it, 30 percent indicate they spend it on new clothes, 28 percent spend it on holidays, while one quarter (25 percent) pay off debts, credit cards and loans.

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