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India, China consumers top emerging market sentiment table: survey

[LONDON] Consumer sentiment in India and China remains resilient despite a challenging economic backdrop, but households in Russia, South Africa and Brazil have become more pessimistic, an annual survey showed.

The Credit Suisse Emerging Consumer survey, which is conducted by market research firm Nielsen and is in its sixth year, is based on nearly 16,000 face-to-face interviews across nine economies.

Weak currencies, falling commodity prices and heightened political risk have taken their toll on emerging markets over the last 12 months, but consumers in China and India demonstrated confidence in their future finances and expected less inflation pressure, the survey found.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia shared the number two spot on the bank's consumer confidence scorecard with China, despite a plunge in oil prices that has strained government finances.

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Most Saudis surveyed envisaged an increase in their discretionary spending, with 53 per cent saying it was a good time for a major purchase and 23 per cent saying it was an excellent time.

Credit Suisse said the continued optimism was based on expectations that the government would continue to support private consumption, adding that the survey may not fully reflect the impact of the 2016 budget.

Turkey was the only country in the survey where personal finances were expected to improve, albeit from a very low base in the previous year. This helped put it in the middle of the consumer confidence rankings, moving up one place to fifth. "This progress is notable, given a track record of engrained pessimism among Turkish consumers," Credit Suisse said, whilst adding that confidence indicators implied consumers were not yet ready to make bulk purchases.

The bank suggested any incremental disposable income was likely to be spent on "affordable but non-necessity" items, such as alcohol, cosmetics and technology.

At the bottom of the table were Brazil, South Africa and Russia, of which Brazil saw the greatest collapse in consumer confidence. Credit Suisse noted that in the past, Brazilians always ranked among the more optimistic consumers.

Now the country is going through a severe recession it delivered "a series of dismal readings on every yardstick", with a significant fall in spending on cosmetics, beer and even internet access, which had been relatively inelastic in prior surveys.

In markets such as India, China and Mexico, Credit Suisse noted a strong growth in smartphone penetration, and forecast that e-commerce revenues in big emerging markets could triple by 2025 to US$2.5 trillion.

In China, where growth in consumption has been driven mainly by income growth and lifestyle changes among the young middle class, Credit Suisse estimated online sales would grow 20-26 per cent year-on-year in 2016-2018.