Media Heads Up: Consumer Confidence Bolts

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Some sobering news for marketers and media agency executives -- consumer confidence has dropped again.

Nielsen's second-quarter 2011 Global Online Confidence Survey points out that consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level in six quarters -- to an 89 index worldwide.

Looking at just the U.S., confidence has fallen five index points to 78 -- which, according to Nielsen, is two points lower than the 80 points recorded during the first half of 2009, when the economy was in the depths of the major worldwide recession.

"Weak economic figures, slowing manufacturing performance and inflation in Asia, an intensifying debt crisis in Europe and continuing political instability in the Middle East combined with rising household expenses in the U.S. have taken their toll on consumers' fragile confidence," said Dr. Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a business unit of The Nielsen Company.

Nielsen research notes that 58% of global online consumers say they are still in a recession -- the most in the past year -- and more than half believe they will still be in a recession in a year's time.

Thirty-one percent of U.S. consumers said they have no spare cash for discretionary spending; the number is 25% for Middle East/Africa consumers and 22% of Europeans.

As a comparison, better consumer confidence news could be found in Europe (a 74 index) and Latin America (a 91 index), both of which were virtually unchanged, up one index point each.

Bigger drops were found in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa, but both regions were still at the highest confidence levels overall -- Asia-Pacific at a 98 index and Middle East/Africa at 94. Nielsen says those two regions remain the most optimistic.

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