AMI shows spending up among Asian consumers

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HONG KONG--The latest AsiaBUS regional omnibus survey byAsia Market Intelligence (AMI) in Hong Kong shows consumerconfidence is beginning to return to crisis-hit countriessuch as Thailand and South Korea.

In Thailand, 47% of people surveyed by AMI, and 31% of thosein Korea, expect to spend more money in 1999 than in 1998.With low inflation rates of less than 2% in both countries,this is a positive sign for economic recovery, especially whencompared with more recently damaged economies such as HongKong, where only 19% of people surveyed expect to spend morein 1999.

Despite the more positive outlook, a sizable group in Korea(39%) feels less affluent this year -- the result, no doubt,of extensive restructuring and layoffs in 1998.

Indonesia and the Philippines both show a high proportionof respondents expecting to spend more in 1999, 81% and 69%respectively, but the true extent of increased consumer confidence is debatable as increases in retail prices are widelyexpected. Inflation for 1999 is forecast at 24% in Indonesiaand 10% in the Philippines.

Despite Taiwan's status as one of the healthier Asian economies, consumers are non-committal, with 41% expecting tospend the same amount in 1999 as in 1998. The impact of depressed inter-regional export markets in an export-driveneconomy seems to be having an effect on consumer confidence,even if economic fundamentals remain relatively strong.

China's consumers stand out as the only truly confidentspenders in Asia today. Of consumers surveyed in Shanghai,72% expect to spend more in 1999, and only 5% expect tospend less, in spite of negative inflation forecast at -2.5%for the year.

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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