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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        1  April 2011

Philippines consumer sentiment fades

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Rising oil prices and the Middle eastern and North African conflicts have caused consumer confidence to weaken in the first quarter of the year, the Philippine central bank said on Thursday.

In its Consumer Expectation Survey, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the overall consumer sentiment declined to -23.1 percent in the first three months of the year from the all-time high of -8.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The latest round of the survey was conducted between March 14 and 21.

“What we expected for the first quarter this year was that this would fall into a positive territory. But, what we saw was a sharp deterioration. This was driven by supply shocks which are external to the Philippines driven by political tensions in the MENA,” BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo told reporters.

The central bank said that households cited the continued increase in the prices of petroleum products, the high cost of goods and services, and the rise in household expenses as the reasons behind their weak outlook.

The BSP said the negative outlook was aggravated by the tensions in the MENA region. “I think it is easy for the consumers, regardless of the income group, to realize that if you had all these kinds of tensions in both the Middle East and North Africa, then the direct impact is in terms of higher oil prices, which in turn will affect domestic prices in the process,” Guinigundo said.

He said consumer sentiment on all three indicators—economic condition of the country, family income and family financial situation—dropped quarter-on-quarter, as those who expect these welfare indicators to worsen outnumbered those who thought otherwise.

Respondents’ sentiment on economic condition declined to -36.8 percent in the current quarter from -6.8 percent in the fourth quarter last year, while sentiment on financial situation weakened to -23.7 percent from -16.4 percent, quarter-on-quarter. Also the outlook on family income dipped to -8.7 percent from -2.3 percent previously.

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