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Consumer confidence up

A ‘significant increase’ in local consumer confidence was reported in the first quarter, according to a MUST study. The Consumer Confidence Index saw improvements in most areas, with the exception of housing purchases, which has rated lowest among the six sub-indexes for the last 20 consecutive quarters. Increases in investment confidence are leading to stock purchases, with employment confidence also on the rise.

The city’s consumer confidence index returned to growth for the first quarter of the year as residents expressed more positive sentiments about a number of economic aspects of the MSAR, with the exception of housing purchases, according to the latest survey on consumer confidence by the Macau University of Science of Technology (MUST), released yesterday.
The Macau Consumer Confidence Index recorded 86.35 out of 200 points for the three months, representing an increase of 2.72 points, or 3.26 per cent, compared to 83.63 points registered for the last quarter of 2016.
‘Our survey results from the first quarter of 2017 showed a significant increase in local consumers’ overall confidence, as evidenced by the fact that only the “housing purchase” sub-index experienced a (significant) decrease from the previous quarter,’ the surveyor notes.
According to MUST, the index is calculated based on six indicators: ‘local economy’, ‘employment’, ‘consumer prices, ‘living standards’, ‘housing purchase’ and ‘stock investment.’ Index scores below 100 suggest a lack of confidence, while scores over 100 imply a positive outlook.
In fact, local consumer confidence in housing purchases has been the lowest among the six sub-indexes for a total of 20 consecutive quarters – since the second quarter of 2012. For the first three months of this year, the sub-index fell a further 1.52 points, or 2.8 per cent quarter-to-quarter, to 53.37.
‘[This] continuously showed the worries of Macau residents about the high housing prices,’ the researcher explained, adding that the decline is partly supported by the latest official statistics showing that the average housing prices per square metre of sellable area jumped by 7.3 per cent quarter-to-quarter in the last three months of 2016.

Confidence in the economy returns
Meanwhile, the report notes that local consumers have gained back their confidence in the local economy, as the related sub-index rose by 1.86 points, or 1.9 per cent, quarter-to-quarter to 101.41, its third consecutive quarterly growth.
‘In the first quarter of 2017, [the sub-index] extended the upward trend and went back again to above the 100-point “having confidence” level after two years’ being below that level, implying that Macau consumers were cautiously optimistic about local economy’s overall performance,’ details the report.
In fact, a significant improvement in consumer sentiment in stock investment was also evident during the first quarter of the year. The related sub-index registered a growth of 7.33 points or 9.5 per cent quarter-to-quarter, which the surveyor notes is ‘reflecting a big increase in the willingness of local consumers to invest in the volatile stock market’.
Local residents’ confidence in employment also increased further to 106.74 points, up by 6.46 points or 6.4 per cent quarter-to-quarter, which suggests that they tended to be more optimistic about their employment in the local labour market in the first three months of the year.
On the other hand, the sub-index for consumer prices went up by 2.04 points or 2.8 per cent quarter-to-quarter, to 74.78 in the period, indicating that local consumers’ concerns about inflation in the near future have ‘significantly reduced’.
The more positive outlook for inflation also helped relax residents’ living pressure, with the sub-index of living standards improving by 0.16 points or 0.2 per cent quarter-to-quarter to 97.4.
MUST stressed again in its report that: ‘the higher the consumers’ education levels, the higher their confidence,’ adding that such a trend has been consistent in the past 34 quarters.
‘So focusing more on education and training as well as motivating and supporting citizens’ continuous learning and self-enhancement should be of fundamental importance for increasing Macau consumers’ confidence,’ the institute suggests.