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Consumer Confidence in Lebanon drops to Near Record Low in Second Half of 2012
11. Apr 2013

source: iloubnan.info

BEIRUT | iloubnan.info - April 11, 2013, 08h53

Byblos Bank issued yesterday, in cooperation with the American University of Beirut through the Olayan School of Business, the results of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index for the second half of 2012.

The results show that the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index rose in July, September and December, and declined in August, October and November, 2012. The Index reached its second-lowest point on a monthly basis in August since its inception in July 2007. On a quarterly basis, the Index slightly improved in the third quarter of the year and regressed in the fourth quarter of 2012, while it posted its second-lowest outcome ever in the final three months of the year. Furthermore, the results reveal that the level of consumer confidence declined across all 26 sub-categories of the Index during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Mr. Nassib Ghobril, Chief Economist and Head of the Economic Research and Analysis Department at Byblos Bank Group, said "domestic political volatility, repeated security breaches, the wave of kidnappings, the resumption of political assassinations, increasing concerns about spillovers from the escalating Syrian crisis, and the dispute over the public-sector salary adjustment issue were the main factors affecting the confidence of Lebanese consumers during the second half of 2012.” He added that “the increase in the cost of living and the deterioration in the quality of basic day-to-day public services also affected consumer confidence.” He noted that "on the positive side, the resumption of the National Dialogue and the issuance of the Baabda Declaration contributed to slightly contain the slide in consumer sentiment."

The Byblos Bank/AUB Present Situation Index and the Byblos Bank/AUB Expectations Index slightly improved during the third quarter from an all-time low, but they resumed their decline in the fourth quarter of 2012. The analysis of the results reveals that the near-term expectations of consumers were generally lower than their views of their current conditions during the second half of 2012. This deepens the trend that started in the first half of the year, but it differs from previous trends when consumers' near-term expectations were consistently higher than their views of their current conditions. In turn, this reflects consumers' negative outlook and raises concerns over the depth of their pessimism.

The results of the full year show that consumer confidence was severely tested in 2012, as 10 out of the 12 monthly readings of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index posted their lowest level since the start of Index's calculation in July 2007. Also, the Index posted a monthly average of 32.5 in 2012, which reflects a drop of 37% from 2011 and a decline of 55.4% from 2010. Furthermore, the Byblos Bank/AUB Present Situation Index reached its lowest level ever in 10 out of 12 months last year; while, more alarmingly, the Byblos Bank/AUB Expectations Index reached its lowest level in 66 months in 11 out of 12 monthly readings during 2012. Security and safety-related issues dominated consumers' concerns during the year. But other powerful issues such as rising political rhetoric and uncertainties, the inability of authorities to satisfy citizens' basic needs, the rising cost of living, decaying public services, the weak rule of law, and economic stagnation resonated strongly among consumers.

"Consumer confidence and economic activity are neither immune nor resilient to chronic security deterioration and heightened political uncertainties, especially in the absence of a plan to stimulate growth. Therefore, we expect economic activity to remain stagnant over the foreseeable future, given the low level of consumer confidence, and especially because of consumers’ declining level of expectations about near-term conditions in the absence of significant developments to improve their confidence level," indicated Mr. Ghobril of Byblos Bank. He added that "consumer sentiment remained at such low levels in the second half of 2012, that consumers require a positive political shock of the magnitude of the Doha Accord, and not just a change in government, in order to restore their confidence to the levels of 2008, 2009 and even 2010."

The results of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index for the second half of 2012 show that male consumers displayed a relatively higher level of confidence than their female counterparts; while consumers who are 60 years old and above displayed a higher level of confidence than other age brackets during the covered period. Also, consumers with household income above USD 2,000 per month consistently had a higher level of confidence than those earning less. Moreover, students and private sector employees posted a higher level of confidence than the self-employed, the unemployed and public sector employees in the third quarter; while the self-employed and private sector employees posted a higher level of confidence than the unemployed, students and public sector employees in the fourth quarter of 2012. In addition, consumers in Mount Lebanon posted the highest confidence level across administrative districts, or mohafaza, in the second half of the year, followed by consumers in Beirut, the North, the South and the Bekaa. Further, Druze consumers displayed the highest level of confidence among religious affiliations in the second half of 2012, and were followed by Christian, Sunni, and Shiite consumers.

In parallel, the analysis revealed that two out of 26 sub-categories of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index posted record lows during the fourth quarter of 2012; while 16 out of 26 sub-categories displayed their second-lowest readings ever during the same quarter. In addition, the results show that the overwhelming majority of respondents interviewed during the third and fourth quarters did not expect to purchase major household items in the coming months as much as they did in the previous six months. Also, the majority of consumers did not expect to purchase, build or sell a home in the near term, while they did not intend to spend large sums of money on home improvements or on renovations in the coming six months.

The Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index is a measure of the sentiment and expectations of Lebanese consumers towards the economy and their own financial situation, in line with leading consumer confidence indices worldwide. It is composed of two sub-indices, the Byblos Bank/AUB Present Situation Index and the Byblos Bank/AUB Expectations Index. The first sub-index covers the current economic and financial conditions of Lebanese consumers, and the second one addresses their outlook over the coming six months. In addition, the data segregates the Index based on age, gender, income, profession, administrative district, and religious affiliation. The Index has been calculated on a monthly basis since July 2007, with January 2009 as its base month. It is based on a nationally representative survey of 1,200 face-to-face interviews with adult males and females living throughout Lebanon. The monthly field survey is conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a market research and opinion polling firm.

image: www.infiniteunknown.net

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