Consumers gloomier in Q4 — BSP

Consumers were more pessimistic this quarter amid a high jobless rate and rising prices, the Philippine central bank said on Friday. 

The overall confidence index fell to -24% from -19.3% in the third quarter, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement. 

In contrast, businesses turned more optimistic as the confidence index returned to positive territory at 39.7%, its highest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March last year. This was a reversal from -5.6% seen in the third quarter. 

Consumers said the weaker outlook was brought about by the unemployment rate, low income, restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, faster increase in prices and fewer working family members, the BSP said. 

“Consistent with the national trend, consumer confidence across income groups also weakened,” it added. 

The central bank said consumer confidence among the high-income group waned amid concerns about job security. Buying sentiment for big-ticket items in the fourth quarter was steady at 13.4%. 

The percentage of households that considered the next 12 months as a favorable time to buy big-ticket items rose to 5.1% from 4.1% in the past quarter. 

BSP Assistant Governor Iluminada T. Sicat said the consumer confidence index might have been affected by the timing of the survey, which was held when Metro Manila was under a stricter lockdown or Alert Level 4. 

“This may have affected the views of the consumer respondents,” she told a news briefing. “That’s why there was a deterioration relative to quarter ago.” 

In contrast, businessmen were more optimistic this quarter as COVID-19 lockdowns eased amid the vaccine rollout and as their sales improved. 

Seasonal factors such as the uptick in demand during the holidays and the start of mining and milling seasons also backed business optimism. 

“All types of trading firms are optimistic in Q4 2021 and are more confident for the near term,” the BSP said. 

Importers and domestic-oriented companies turned optimistic, while exporters and dual-activity companies became even more confident. 

The consumer report surveyed 5,665 households from Oct. 1 to 13, while the business survey interviewed 1,511 companies from Oct. 8 to Nov. 18. — Jenina P. Ibañez