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SA consumers mark longest pessimistic streak in more than three decades

| Economic factors

South African consumers have remained pessimistic for the past three years, a First National Bank sponsored survey released on Wednesday morning showed.

Stellenbosch University’s Bureau of Economic Research (BER) said its poll of consumers was done before Cyril Ramaphosa’s victory in the ANC presidency election made the country more optimistic.

The BER’s consumer confidence index came in at minus eight points in the December quarter.

No survey was done in the third quarter, after the second quarter registered a gloomy consumer confidence index of minus nine points in the second quarter.

The researchers decided to use an average value of minus nine for the third quarter.

South African consumer confidence reached a low of minus 15 in the second quarter of 2015 and was at minus 10 in the fourth quarter of 2016.

"Low consumer confidence levels point to a low willingness to spend among consumers, but actual spending is also influenced by their ability to spend — as determined by their disposable income and access to credit," FNB senior economic analyst Jason Muscat said in a media statement.

"The latest reading of minus eight means that the consumer confidence index has now been below the zero mark for three consecutive years — the longest uninterrupted negative streak since the survey started in 1982," Muscat said.

"The current optimism around the election of Ramaphosa could move the needle on consumers’ rating of the present time to buy durable goods in the positive direction. Coupled with a sustained recovery in credit extension and lower prices for imported durable goods on the back of the stronger rand, the outlook for durable goods sales volumes in particular has improved."

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