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Index ends 2015 on sour note

 18 January 2016      

OTTAWA (15 January 2016) - The Index of Consumer Confidence fell 12.1 points in December, not only wiping out any gains made over the previous two months, but leaving it at its lowest level in two years. And, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the increase in pessimism was spread across every region of the country.

What's more troubling for furniture, mattress and major appliance retailers is both sides of the major purchases question - is now a good time to make a major purchase, such as a house, car, appliance or furniture? - took a hit, falling even further.

The board report the index fell to 91 in December 2015. It had been set to 100 in 2014. The survey of 3,000 or so Canadians was conducted online between November 30 and December 10.

Regionally, the index for Atlantic Canada fell 23.1 in December, but there was a glimmer of hope as Julie Adès, the board's senior economist in charge of the confidence index project, noted "while this was a major drop, it was not enough to completely wipe out the significant gain recorded the previous month. As such, the region's index remains above its 2014 average."

British Columbia's index has a similar story. While it dropped 17.4 points in December, it ended the year at 115.7 thanks to the upward trend it was on throughout 2013 and 2014. "Over that period, consumer sentiment on the current and future finances, as well as the major purchases, questions improved steadily," Adès said, adding this didn't stop B.C.'s finance and major purchase questions from deteriorating in December.

Ontario's index deteriorated on all four questions and fell 9.7 points in December. "The province's index followed an upward trend in 2013 and 2014, but that trend reversed itself in 2015 as consumer sentiment deteriorated, particularly on the current and future finances questions and on whether it is a good time to make a major purchase," she said.

Meanwhile, Quebec's index fell 4.6 points - following a healthy gain the previous month - has the balance of opinion deteriorated on the future finance, job prospects, and major purchase questions.

Thanks to weakening oil prices, Alberta's index reached a new low in December and now stands 64 points below its 2014 average. Relative to November, the balance of opinion deteriorated on all four questions, with big drops coming on the current finances, future job prospects, and major purchase questions.

The Saskatchewan-Manitoba index fell for the second consecutive and the ninth month of 2015 in December as consumers continued to worry about the effect of depressed commodity prices on the local economy.

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