Nielsen: U.S. consumers spending looking up

New York -- North American consumers opened their wallets in the first quarter of 2013 and exhibited a desire to spend again, although they remain cautious, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions. Forty-two percent said they plan to spend on discretionary items this year, a six-point rise from fourth quarter 2012, and up from the average of 33% over the past three years.

North America led the other regions in terms of spending intentions, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, which reported an increase of two percentage points to 39%. Comparatively, spending intentions declined among respondents in Latin America (35%), Middle East/Africa (33%) and Europe (27%). The Nielsen report measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access in 58 countries.

“In the U.S., the increase in reported discretionary spending is not a rising tide affecting all ships,” said James Russo, senior VP, global consumer insights, Nielsen. “Nearly four years after the official recession hit, more than three-quarters of Americans are still feeling the effects. With close to two-thirds of Americans living pay check to pay check, consumers are significantly affected by continued volatile economic factors, such as job growth, rising food and fuel prices.”

Study highlights include:

  • 49% of Americans said their personal financial prospects looked “good to excellent”, up from 43% in the previous quarter and encouraged by signs of an improving labor market.
  • 23% of Americans said they intended to spend on home improvement and decorating projects (an increase of six points compared to fourth quarter 2012).
  • 22% of Americans plan on spending on out of home entertainment (an increase of two percentage points compared to fourth quarter 2012).
  • 25% of Americans plan on buying new clothes (a decline from 27% reported in fourth quarter 2012).
  • Confidence in key Asian export economies rebounded strongly in the first quarter.
  • Consumer confidence in central and northern Europe increased, surpassing year-ago levels.
  • Latin Americans reported spending restraint and the region’s confidence dipped two points in the first quarter.
  • Consumer confidence in the Middle East/Africa region declined to the lowest level in three years.

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