KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 ― Malaysia’s Consumer Sentiments Index (CSI) has increased by almost 14 points quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) to reach a ten-quarter high of 98.9 points in the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021), according to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER).

However, MIER said the quarterly CSI is still below the 100-point threshold level of optimism, suggesting that while consumers are showing signs of settling down, they continue to remain conservative.

“The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme which kicked off in Q1 2021, and recovery in both the domestic and global economies have likely alleviated consumer sentiments lately,” it said in its Q1 2021 Consumer Sentiments Survey Report released today.

On the improved CSI, MIER said consumers’ financial and employment expectations for six months from now had also improved quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) and year-on-year.

“As consumer spending patterns are in line with the expectational component of the overall CSI, the increase in the reading bodes a favourable shift in spending patterns as consumers are somewhat positive about the economy and their financial outlook in the coming months,” it said.

MIER said the report also showed that current finances had improved in Q1 2021, with 15 per cent of 1,002 households surveyed making this claim compared to 11 per cent in the last quarter.

Better incomes also expected for Q2 2021, with 26 per cent of respondents looking forward to higher incomes soon.

Hirings are also picking up in Q1 2021, with the current employment situation looking the most encouraging since Q4 2019, said MIER.

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 “The proportion of respondents claiming that more jobs were available in Q1 2021 rose to 14 per cent — a five-quarter high; while those who opined that jobs were hard to come by during the quarter have dipped to a five-quarter low of 56 per cent,” it said.

Meanwhile, the report showed that a higher number of respondents were jittery over higher prices, with 74 per cent expressing their concerns over the matter compared to 65 per cent in Q4 2020 and 57 per cent in Q1 2020.

Nonetheless, it said consumers are planning to shop again in Q1 2021 following expectations of a pick-up in incomes and jobs soon.

“For the third consecutive quarter, home plans have continued to top the lists, with 14 per cent of respondents divulging plans to go house hunting soon, up from 13 per cent last quarter and nine per cent a year ago,” it said.

It added that the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations in May and attractive interest rates offered by banks had likely contributed to consumers’ shopping plans as well.

“With the outlook for home-related spending looking better this time, businesses may be able to trim their top-heavy inventories as soon as they can in the short term.

“So long as households keep beating a slow tempo, they could help keep the economy treading slowly ahead, at least in the first half of 2021,” it concluded. ― Bernama



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