With little sign of an economic upswing ahead, consumer confidence has continued to fall this month for the sixth straight month, reaching the lowest level since December 2001, according to a survey released by National Central University yesterday.
The consumer confidence index (CCI) this month has fallen a tiny 0.01 percentage point from last month's 67.5 to 67.49, said report author Chu Yun-peng (朱雲鵬), head of the university's Research Center for Taiwan Economic Development, during a press conference.
"Little movement has been shown in the index over the past few months," he said.
The index has moved down by less than 1 percentage point every month since it reached 69.01 in May, he said.
This month's index was based on interviews with 2,445 people between Oct. 14 and Oct. 17. The index gauges the public's expectations on stock performance, household finances, durable goods, job opportunities, consumer price fluctuations and the economic outlook over the next six months.
A CCI figure of less than 100 points indicates that the public is pessimistic about the economic outlook for the next six months, while a score of between 100 and 200 points demonstrates optimism, the center said.
Scores in the categories of price fluctuations and household finances both dipped to their lowest level since the survey started in 2001. This month's price fluctuation subcategory score was 39.1 while the household finance score dipped to 54, reflecting the public's concerns despite the recent softening of gasoline prices.
A remarkable 91.7 percent of respondents said they were worried that more price increases would occur within the next six months, while 70.7 percent feared that their household finances would turn worse in the near future.
The only sub-index to exhibit a rise and sit well above the 100-point benchmark line was consumer sentiment about purchasing durable goods, increasing by 0.25 percentage points to 118 this month.
"This reflects people's conservative attitude in daily spending, which has contracted in order for them to set aside more funds for purchases of houses or automobiles that can better maintain their value," said Shia Ben-chang (謝邦昌), a professor of statistics and information science at Fu Jen Catholic University.
Separately, the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) yesterday said a composite index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent last month to 110 points, recovering from the fall it experienced in the previous two months.
The index, a key prediction of economic activity for the next three months, showed a 0.8 percent fall in August and a 0.3 percent decline in July, the council said in a statement.
But the CEPD's index of coincident indicators, which is a reflection of the current pace of economic activity, fell 1.4 percent month-on-month to 109.5 points last month, it said.
The CEPD's indices for leading and coincident indicators are both based on a 2001 benchmark of 100 points.
The CEPD also said that its monitoring indicators for last month flashed a “green light,” signalling steady economic growth. For June, July and August, the indicator flashed a “yellow-blue light,” signalling an economic slowdown.