Consumer confidence drops to a three-year low

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - Page 13

Despite a gradual improvement in economic fundamentals, the consumer confidence index fell to its lowest level in nearly three years this month as salaries remained stagnant, a National Central University survey released yesterday showed.

The index slid 1.06 points from a month earlier to 71.06 this month, marking the fourth consecutive month of decline and also the lowest level since January 2010, the survey showed.

The index gauges public expectations on the stock market’s performance, household finances, durable goods, job opportunities, consumer prices and the economic outlook for the next six months.

This month’s survey — which polled 2,442 people over the age of 20 from Wednesday to Saturday of last week — showed an improvement in sentiment toward the stock market, but concern over the five other components of the index increased, the university’s Research Center for Taiwan Economic Development said.

“Although various economic indicators turned positive in the fourth quarter, the survey showed that consumers did not feel this way subjectively,” center director Dachrahn Wu (吳大任) said by telephone.

Wu attributed the phenomenon to stagnant wages, saying the government should help stimulate private investment, create more jobs and boost income levels.

The job opportunities sub-index showed the largest decline among all segments, dropping 3.15 points to 104.6 this month, the second-lowest level this year, the center said in a report.

Meanwhile, the durable goods sub-index slid to its weakest level since October 2009, shedding 1.9 points to 84.85 this month, the report said. Wu said the drop reflected weak sentiment toward the real-estate sector.

In related news, an online manpower agency’s latest survey showed more employers are planning to recruit new employees in the first quarter of next year compared with the fourth quarter of this year.

The survey by 1111 Job Bank (1111人力銀行), which polled 639 employers between Dec. 11 and Tuesday, showed that 62 percent of respondents planned to recruit more employees in the first quarter.

That represented an increase from the 43 percent recorded in the fourth quarter, but was lower than the 73 percent recorded during the first quarter of this year.

“The fourth quarter is a slow season for hiring, with most companies usually delaying their recruitment plans in the period before the Lunar New Year,” Henry Ho (何啟聖), a public relations director at the online manpower agency, told a press conference.

Companies in the information and electronics industry led the demand for new recruits, amid expectations of an economic recovery next year and the sector’s trend-setting role in leading sentiment in the employment market, Ho said.