BUSINESS

September shows marked improvement in consumer confidence: Conference Board

09/26/2012 08:17 EDT | Updated 11/26/2012 05:12 EST
OTTAWA - Consumer confidence headed higher in September, helped by an improved financial outlook, as Canadians were their most optimistic since July 2011, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

The Ottawa-based think tank reported Wednesday that its consumer confidence index increased 6.7 points to 82.2 after a weak showing in August.

"After a poor showing in August, the balance of opinion on the current finances question reversed itself sharply in September," the report said.

On the question of current finances, 18.4 per cent of the respondents said their situation had improved over the past six months — up two percentage points from the August survey.

There was a smaller percentage of those who were asked who said their situation had become worse over the past six months — falling 3.7 percentage points to 17.6 per cent.

Regarding future finances, 25.2 per cent said they expected an improvement over the next six months — an increase of 1.2 percentage points.

Only 15.6 per cent of respondents said they expected their financial situation to worsen, a decline of 1.7 percentage points since August.

"The balance of opinion remains firmly positive on this question (as it has for more than 10 years now), with the balance in this latest survey coming in slightly above the average of the last two years," the group said.

The improved reading of Canadian consumer confidence follows a report Tuesday that retail sales rose more than expected in July, helped by strong auto sales.

Statistics Canada said retail sales were up 0.7 per cent to $39 billion in July, more than offsetting a decline in June, with eight of 11 subsectors reporting increases.

The Conference Board report for September suggested Canadians were pessimistic about making a major purchase, but that the outlook had improved.

When asked if they think now is a good time to make a major purchase 42.9 per cent said yes, an increase of 1.7 percentage points.

Pessimism about future job prospects also remains elevated, the board said.

Those who said they expected more jobs in their communities in six months was unchanged at 15.4 per cent, while those who said they expected fewer jobs fell 2.5 percentage points to 21.5 per cent.

The Conference Board survey was based on over 2,000 telephone interviews conducted in early September.