By Susan Fenton
LONDON (Reuters) - Indonesians remained the world's most bullish consumers in the final quarter of 2013 while Americans were slightly less willing to spend than in the previous quarter, a global survey showed.
In the euro zone, confidence rose sharply in Ireland, which successfully completed its EU/IMF bailout program late last year, and improved in Germany and Spain.
But sentiment plunged in France and Portugal and slipped in Greece and Italy, according to the quarterly survey by global information and insights company Nielsen.
Countries in Asia, including India and China, and the Gulf continued to dominate the list of most upbeat consumer markets although Brazil, Denmark and Canada also featured in the top 10 markets, the survey, released on Wednesday, showed.
The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index stayed at 94 in the fourth quarter for a third straight quarter, but was up 3 points from the same period a year earlier. A reading below 100, however, signals still relatively low consumer morale.
Consumer sentiment in the United States slipped four points from a six-year high in the third quarter although it was five points higher than in the fourth quarter of 2012.
"The lack of additional recent improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment is, in some measure, surprising given the improvements in employment, stock market values and housing that occurred over 2013," said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.
"It is likely that this is a reflection of the uneven manner in which such gains have been made, and also that levels of underemployment and long-term unemployment remain high, with many workers remaining discouraged and not participating in the workforce."
In Japan, stock market gains did seem to have an impact, Nielsen said, helping consumer confidence jump by 6 points from the third quarter to its highest level since 2005. Nielsen was cautious about the outlook for Japanese consumer confidence in the second half of this year however, given a planned increase in sales tax in April.
Nielsen was confident that despite a slip back at the end of last year confidence in the United States, the world's biggest consumer market, would pick up again in 2014 as economic growth gains momentum, supporting the global economy.
"The positive growth trajectory for the U.S. is likely to continue in 2014, and with continued improvement in job quantity and quality, along with a housing recovery, U.S. consumer sentiment is likely to grow as well," Bala said.
The Nielsen survey was conducted between November 11 and 29 and covered more than 30,000 online consumers across 60 markets.
Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index in the fourth quarter, 2013 (change from Q3 survey in brackets):
Top 10 index readings Bottom 10 index readings
Indonesia 124 (+4) Finland 67 (-1)
India 115 (+3) Slovakia 65 (+5)
Philippines 114 (-4) Ukraine 63 (+4)
China 111 (+1) Romania, Bulgaria 62 (-4,-1)
Brazil, UAE 110 (+1.-1) Spain 58 (+2)
Thailand 109 (-3) Serbia 54 (-2)
Denmark, Hong Kong 105 (+2,-1) France, Hungary 51(-10,+6)
Peru 102 (+8) South Korea 49 (-5)
Saudi Arabia 101 (+4) Greece 45 (-3)
New Zealand, Canada 100 (+3,+3) Portugal, Croatia 44(-11,-4
Slovenia, Italy -3,-3)
Global consumer confidence average 94 (0)
United States 94 (-4)
Germany 95 (+3)
UK 84 (-3)
Japan 80 (+6)
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)