MANILA, MARCH 14, 2008
(STAR) By Des Ferriols - Consumer confidence in the country remained negative in the first quarter but sentiments improved slightly despite worries over political problems and rising consumer prices.

The latest Consumer Expectations Survey (CES) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) revealed that consumer confidence was at negative 27.1 percent but this was an improvement from the index level in the previous quarter recorded at negative 33.6 percent.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo told reporters yesterday that while still predominantly pessimistic, consumers are now getting more optimistic of their prospects in the second quarter and the next 12 months.

In the survey, Guinigundo said consumers were more upbeat about their family income and overall family finances but consumer outlook on the macro-economy pulled sentiments down.

Guinigundo said households belonging to higher income group (families earning over P30,000 per month) were more optimistic in the next quarter and the next 12 months than families belonging to low income groups with monthly earnings less than P10,000.

He explained that the negative result of the survey could be attributed to the fact that a large portion of respondents was comprised of the lower income group whose overall outlook was darker than the higher income group.

Guinigundo said that 58 percent of the CES’ sample group consisted of low-income families which he said reflected the general breakdown of the population based on income.

Based on survey results, Guinigundo said surveyed families expected their household expenditures to increase in the second quarter particularly on food, electricity, fuel, education, personal care and effects.

On the other hand, Guinigundo said consumers also expected buying conditions to be “favorable” in the first quarter of the year, deeming it a good time to buy consumer durables because prices have gone down for such items as computers and other electronic products.

Despite the improvement in consumer assessment of buying conditions, Guinigundo said actual intentions were exactly the opposite. He said consumers were not in a rush to buy big-ticket items such as consumer durables, motor vehicles and houses.

The CES, according to the BSP, covered the period between Jan. 15 and Feb. 14 with a sample size of 2,522 households of which about half were in the national capital.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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