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Consumer confidence index hits 18-month high in November

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Shoppers at Far Eastern Sogo Department Store pay what they bought during the retailer's annual sales in Taipei.

The consumer confidence index (CCI) in Taiwan continued to rise in November, reaching the highest in a year and a half, as all six factors moved higher, led by optimism towards the stock market, National Central University (NCU) said Monday.

Citing a survey it conducted Nov. 18-21, NCU said the CCI rose 0.34 points in November from a month earlier to 69.4, the highest since April 2022, when it stood at 71.77. The hike in the November CCI was also the second consecutive monthly increase, the university said.

According to NCU, the CCI gauges the level of confidence people have towards employment prospects, family finances, consumer prices, the local economic climate, the stock market, and the likelihood of purchasing durable goods over the following six months.

In November, the sub-index for the local stock market rose by 0.83 points from a month earlier to 50.39, marking the largest increase among the six factors in the month and the highest since January 2022, when its stood at 51.10.

At a news conference, Dachrahn Wu (吳大任), director of NCU's Research Center for Taiwan Economic Development, said the Taiwan stock market rebounded strongly in November, as foreign institutional investors rebuilt their positions amid lessening concerns over further interest rate hikes in the United States.

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As of Nov. 24, the Taiex, the weighted index on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, had gained 1,286.15 points, or 8.04 percent, since the start of the month. During that period, foreign institutional investors bought a net NT$203.92 billion (US$6.47 billion) worth of shares, as a weaker U.S dollar prompted them to move their funds into non-greenback denominated assets.

Wu said the November spike in the CPI sub-index for the stock market indicated greater investor confidence in the equity market, but the latest figure was still far short of the long-term average of 68.71 points.

Meanwhile, the sub-index for consumer prices rose 0.33 points in November from a month earlier to 28.39, recording the second highest growth among the six factors, while the sub-indexes on possible purchases of durable items and the local economic climate grew 0.28 and 0.23, respectively, from a month earlier to 111.28 and 81.84, the survey found.

In addition, the sub-indexes on family finances and employment rose 0.2 and 0.19 points, respectively, from a month earlier to 77.06 and 67.42, according to the survey.

Wu said the local economy has continued to benefit from solid domestic consumption in the post COVID-19 era, which has boosted consumer confidence, but there are still concerns over weak global demand, despite the CPI increase in November.

If the U.S. economy, the biggest in the world, weakens amid aggressive rate hikes, Taiwan's exports may be affected and its economy would feel the pinch, he said.

Furthermore, Taiwan's sales of electronics components may suffer due to falling demand, if the recovery of China's economy, the second largest in the world, remains weak, Wu said.

In October, Taiwan's exports fell 4.5 percent from a year earlier to US$38.11 billion, after a brief rebound of 3.4 percent in September. In the first 10 months of the year, the country's exports dropped 12.9 percent from a year earlier to US$355.09 billion.

Wu said, however, that Taiwan's outbound sales could return to growth by the end of the year on a relatively weak comparison base over the same period of last year.

In the NCU's surveys, a CPI sub-index score of 0-100 indicates pessimism, while a score of 100-200 shows optimism, the university said, noting the only factor that showed optimism in November was the likelihood of purchasing durable goods over the next six months.

Meanwhile, another NCU survey conducted jointly with Taiwan Realty showed a month-over-month increase of 0.22 points in November in the index for home buying, which stood at 106.58.

The university's CCI survey in November collected 2,971 valid questionnaires from consumers in Taiwan aged 20 and over. It had a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.0 percentage points.

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