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Consumer confidence slipping to 2003 low
By Louise Ho (HK Edition)
Updated: 2008-11-07 07:33

Times are clearly bad when Hongkongers are more worried than they were during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

And according to a recent survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, that's exactly what has happened.

The financial maelstrom has nearly killed consumer confidence and dampened the job outlook to points around or below where they were five years ago, the survey says.

The university's Centre for Quality of Life interviewed 506 adults in late October, determining that the consumer confidence index dropped 6.3 points, month-on-month, to 59.8 - slightly above the level during SARS, when the index fell as low as 55.

And Hongkongers' employment confidence is even worse than during the SARS period, as the index of employment confidence has plunged from 44.1 in September to 22.5 in October, setting a record low since the survey was first conducted in February of 2000.

The majority of respondents (81 percent) expected the employment situation to deteriorate next year.

The respondents also felt the economic outlook will be gloomy, as close to 70 percent said the business environment in the coming year will be bad.

Seventy percent of respondents agreed that Hong Kong is entering a period of recession.

"The survey results show that consumer and employment confidence of Hong Kong people has been greatly affected by the recent financial tsunami," said Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, director of the Centre for Quality of Life.

Kwan said he expects the effects of the financial tsunami on the local economy to continue into next year. The financial, retail and catering sectors have been hardest hit amid the turmoil.

He said the pessimistic sentiments of consumers will adversely affect domestic demand, and he cited restaurant and retail-chain closures in the last two months.

After reviewing economic statistics, Kwan said he expects the recession in Hong Kong to last for three more quarters and the local economy to gradually rebound around next spring or summer.

To pull the city out of a recession, he suggested the government make use of its HK$440 billion fiscal reserve to cut taxes and create more temporary jobs for the unemployed.

Meanwhile, the working people, he said, should equip themselves with more skills and be cautious with their money.

(HK Edition 11/07/2008 page1)