Customers in UAE resist the blues

The Life: The latest report that tracks consumer confidence around the world is out. Here is how people in the Emirates fare compared with other countries.

Consumer sentiment in Saudi Arabia remains positive amid global and regional developments. Hassan Ammar / AFP
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Whether they are feeling optimistic and happily shopping for goods or are nervous and keeping their wallets shut, customers and their sentiments are closely monitored by companies around the world.

The Credit Suisse Research Institute released a survey on so-called emerging consumers last month that aims to provide "a unique perspective on consumer behaviour at ground level", while organisations such as the University of Michigan and The Conference Board in the US try to track various aspects of consumer sentiment.

One of the latest reports in this space, which was released last week by the research firm Nielsen, measures consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 to indicate different degrees of optimism and pessimism.

It factors in responses from more than 28,000 consumers online in 56 countries, including some in the Middle East and Africa, to gauge their economic outlook and confidence in the job market, how they are faring in their personal finances and their readiness to spend.

So how did people in this part of the world stack up against their peers globally?

Individuals in India topped the optimism ranking worldwide, with those in Indonesia and the Philippines tying for second place. Ten countries made this "top tier" group, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia the lone representatives from the Middle East and Africa.

The confidence level remained unchanged in the Emirates, at 105, during the final quarter of last year compared with the previous quarter, according to Nielsen's report. Sentiment in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, dipped seven points to 113 in the same period.

"Political turmoil in the Middle East and doubts towards future oil demand, which is indispensable for the Saudi economy, and subsequent austerity measures has led to depressed consumer sentiments in Saudi Arabia," said Arslan Ashraf, the managing director for Nielsen Saudi Arabia.

"However, through hefty stimulus packages, the Saudi government is making efforts to insulate the economy from these global and regional developments."

Globally, confidence inched up just one point, to 89. Many may not be surprised to learn that consumer sentiment dropped in Europe.

But it fell in 24 of 27 countries in that region "as the impact of the region's debt crisis, currency woes and Italy's political and economic uncertainty sent shock waves throughout the region and into international financial markets", said Venkatesh Bala, the chief economist at The Cambridge Group, which is part of Nielsen.

In the Middle East and Africa, the top concern for one in five respondents was job security, which was five points higher than the global average. Yet that concern does not seem to be shared by many workers in the UAE.

A separate index released on Sunday found that employers here were slightly more bullish on their expectations for hiring this quarter than they were during the final quarter of last year.

About one-quarter of companies in the Emirates - 26 per cent - said they would "definitely" be hiring in the coming three months, according to a survey conducted by the job-search site and the research firm YouGov. Most of the job openings would be for junior executives in the private sector, favouring candidates with experience in computer science, commerce and business management.