Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Politics and oil take toll on consumer confidence

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Political factors and rising oil prices have taken their toll on the nation's consumer confidence, with survey respondents showing mild pessimism about the next six months, according to a biannual report released by MasterCard International yesterday.

The nation's confidence score -- ranging between zero and 100 based on responses to questions about employment, the economy, regular income, the stock market and quality of life -- slid to 48.2 from 58.6 in the second quarter last year and 65.7 a year ago.

The latest survey was conducted between Oct. 20 and Nov. 5 to determine confidence levels in 13 Asia-Pacific markets. Except in China, where 600 respondents were interviewed, 400 samples were collected in each market.

"The ongoing disputes and lawsuits over the presidential election have increased people's uncertainty about the future, thereby causing the index to fall. But as the overall economic situation in Taiwan remains healthy and strong, we are still optimistic about domestic consumption," said Tina Chiang (江威娜), vice president and business manager of MasterCard International.

MasterCard estimated that Taiwan's economic growth will reach 5.5 percent this year, and the unemployment rate is expected to dip to 3.9 percent, although inflation and the benchmark interest rate could edge up slightly.

Taiwanese respondents expressed a less confident view on stock performances (45.1 versus 60.6 six months ago) and the domestic economy (48.9 versus 65.1 six months ago), according to the report.

Although the results of subjective responses are incomparable among different markets, the survey nevertheless showed that people in Indonesia, Vietnam and China appeared highly confident about the next six months.

Indonesia's confidence score jumped from 67.3 two quarters ago to the current 94.7, near the record high of 95.9 in the second quarter of 1997. Japan, the Philippines and South Korea were at the bottom of the list, showing a pessimistic outlook toward the near future.

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