Canada consumer sentiment mixed in January

Mon Feb 1, 2010 11:34am EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian consumers were less optimistic about the economy in January, according to a survey by the country's biggest bank, while another poll showed overall consumer confidence leapt to a 23-month high.

The contradictory results partly reflect different questions asked in the surveys by Royal Bank of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada, but also reveal a high degree of uncertainty surrounding economic recovery.

The RBC Monthly Canadian Consumer Outlook Index, released on Monday, dipped 2 points to 106 in January from December.

Fifty-two percent of RBC respondents in January described the economy as bad and 48 percent as good. In December, 51 percent viewed it as good and 49 percent viewed it as bad.

Also, 56 percent of Canadians expected the economy to improve over the next year, down from 60 percent in December. RBC attributed the reduction in optimism to more Canadians planning to hold off on major purchases such as cars, vacations and appliances due to current economic conditions.

The percentage of people who expect the economy to get worse remained unchanged at 17 percent.

By contrast, the Conference Board survey, released on Monday, revealed "positive sentiment was widespread in January", with more upbeat responses to all the questions it asked: the state of current personal finances, future personal finances, employment and major purchases.

"The balance of opinion improved on all four questions, with responses on consumers' finances showing the greatest improvement. However, responses on future employment opportunities also showed strength," it said.

Data last week showed Canada's economic recovery picked up speed in November and stronger than expected growth fueled expectations of a solid fourth quarter. Employment figures to be released this week should show further improvement.   Continued...

<p>People walk past a retail stores in Quebec City in this July 25, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>