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Economy in Brief

The Benelux Consumers
by Louise Curley  March 20, 2012

Consumers in the Benelux Custom Union, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, are early indicators of changes in consumer confidence. March data for Belgium and the Netherlands were released today. Confidence increased among the Belgium consumers but declined among Dutch consumers. Consumers in Luxembourg have yet to be heard from. They are, however, only a small part of the Custom Union. (The populations of the three countries are: the Netherlands: 16.7 million, Belgium,11.0 million and Luxembourg 0.5 million.)

Confidence in the Custom Union is measured by the difference between the percentage of optimists and of pessimists. In Belgium, the balance of opinion rose from -20% in February to -12% in March while the balance of opinion in the Netherlands declined from -36% in February to -39% in March. As can be seen in the attached chart, confidence began to falter in early 2011 with the rise of the Euro Crisis. Confidence in Luxembourg and Belgium has only just begun to show some signs of improvement with the recent alleviation of the Greek situation, but confidence in the Netherlands remains close to its all time low. The March figure for consumer confidence in the Netherlands was only 1 percentage point above the all time low of -40% in July 2003 and 5 percentage points above the -34% of March 2009. Consumers in Belgium and in Luxembourg appear to be more optimistic than those in the Netherlands.

  Mar-12 Feb-12 Mar-11 M/M Chg Y/Y Chg 2011 2010 2000
Consumer Confidence (% Balance)
Netherlands -39 -36 -8 -3 -31 -18 -13 -12
Belgium -12 -20 -2 +8 -10 -47 -8 -5
Luxembourg N/A -6 5 -- -- 1 0 -11
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