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NEW YORK -- Consumer confidence is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index. Worldwide, the index rose to 86 points, a nine-point spike from six months ago. The U.S. registered a four-point increase to 84 points in the third quarter compared to the first half of the year -- the country's first positive gain since early 2007.
The index gauges consumers' confidence based on the job market, their financial status and readiness to spend. In April, the twice-yearly global index hit an all-time low at 77 points. Since then, confidence has grown in 45 of the 52 countries measured. The index polled 30,500 Internet users between September 28 and October 16, revealing that despite the growing sense of optimism, people are still spending conservatively. What's more, some buying habits appear to have changed permanently.
"The majority of consumers in the U.S. and Europe have conceded to a measured recovery, but it is a recovery nonetheless," James Russo, vice president, global consumer insights for The Nielsen Co., said in a statement.
In the U.S., the index rose to 84 points. This was up from 80 points in the first half of the year, but still down significantly from the second half of 2007, when it was at 100 points. Russo said the current uptick "hasn't translated into spending confidence for the vast majority of American consumes. Clearly, this recovery will be manifested in measured and restrained spending as consumers work to repair their balance sheets."
Globally, consumers said their biggest concern continues to be the economy (18 percent), followed by job security (16 percent).
Hong Kong posted the largest surge in confidence. It was up 14 ticks to 93 points. South Korea (up 13 points) and Brazil (up 12 points) also saw sizeable increases. India, Indonesia and Norway were the most confident nations.
Overall, "a nine-point surge in consumer confidence signifies a welcome return to positive territory," Russo said. "It really demonstrates that in the last six months, a majority of consumer sentiment across the globe has shifted gears from recession to recovery -- the tide has turned."
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