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Economy in Brief

An Assortment Of Consumer Confidence Indicators
by Louise Curley April 27, 2010

France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland released indicators of consumer confidence today.  The latest data for the Swiss indicator, the UBS Consumption Indicator, are for March.  Those for Italy, ISAE's consumer survey, and France, INSEE's household survey, are for April and those for Germany, GfK's consumer climate survey, May.

After some loss of confidence at the end of last year and early this year, due largely to the rise in energy prices, consumer confidence in Switzerland, Italy and Germany has recovered as can be seen in the first chart.  French consumers, however, have on balance become more negative, as shown in the second chart.  It should be noted that since its inception in April, 1986, that the only time the non seasonally adjusted French measure of consumer confidence has reported a positive balance of opinion was during the period from July 1999 to May 2001, as seen in the second chart.  The average balance of opinion over the whole span is -18.  

The measures of consumer confidence vary from country to country.  Balances of opinion in German and France, an index with a base year of 1980 for Italy and a so-called index for Switzerland.  The Swiss indicator has no base year and is an index in the sense that "it points to, identifies or highlights a particular trend or condition" (Definition of index, no.3 in Chambers 21st Century Dictionary).  One way to judge current values is to relate them to the average of the data over its history, which is shown in the last column of the following table.  Consumer confident in Germany at 3.8 in May is above its long term average of 3.3, as is Swiss consumer confidence, which in March was 1.708 compared with its long term average of 1.501.  In April, French consumer confidence at -37 was well below its long term average of -18 while Italian consumer confidence of 107.7 was  moderately below its long term average of 112.7 (1980=100).   

  May 10  Apr 10  Mar 10 Feb 10 Jan 10 Dec 09 Nov 09 Average*
Germany: GFK Consumer Climate % Bal 3.8 3.4 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.6 3.9 3.3
France: INSEE Household Survey  -- -37 -35 -34 -29 -33 -32 -18
Italy: ISAE Consumer Survey1980=100  -- 107.7 105.3 107.2 112.1 111.2 111.2 112.7
Switzerland: UBS Consumption Indicator  --  -- 1.708 1.201 1.322 1.201 1.279 1.501
*Average over the span of available data
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