Views of economy improve, but gloom persists, Nielsen study finds

North America shows largest improvement in economic outlook

NEW YORK — More than half of consumers around the world say the world is in an economic recession, according to a new study by Nielsen.

According to the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, 71% of North Americans said they were in a recession in the fourth-quarter of 2012, but this represented a drop in 15 percentage points from the fourth-quarter of 2011, representing the largest drop in negative sentiments about the economy of any area.

"North America is slowly, but steadily heading in the right direction," said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at Nielsen's Cambridge Group division. "Compared with a year ago, North America showed progress toward recovery with a six-point year-on-year consumer confidence increase, driven mainly by a three-point increase in a positive job outlook, up from 37% in [fourth-quarter] 2011 to 40% in [fourth-quarter] 2012. With continued weakness in Europe and uneven growth in Asia, it may well be that with a brighter job market, the U.S. serves as the critical engine of improved global economic activity in 2013."

Nevertheless, while sentiments in North America had seen significant improvement, bad feelings about the economy were still lower in Asia and Latin America, with 48% and 50% of respondents in those respective areas saying the economy was in recession; those figures represented declines of four and three percentage points compared with third-quarter 2012, respectively. But Europeans' view was still dimmer than North Americans', with 75% saying they were in recession, unchanged since the third-quarter, while 73% of people in the Middle East and Africa said they were in recession, an increase of one percentage point over third-quarter 2012.

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