Consumer confidence remains weak
The FNB/Ber Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) edged up to -1 during this period, from -3 in the previous quarter.
"This means that confidence and lack thereof among consumers remains finely balanced, very much in line with a modestly performing economy," they said in a statement.
Consumers' rating of the prospects for the national economy, the outlook for their own finances and the appropriateness of the present time to buy durable goods all improved slightly during the period.
The third quarter results compared well with the previous quarter, when the index plunged eight points from +5 to -3.
Despite the improvement, consumer confidence remained at levels last witnessed at the onset of the global financial crisis in the second half of 2008.
"Coupled with a projected slowdown in household income growth, low consumer confidence levels foreshadow a further deceleration in the growth in consumer spending during the remainder of 2012."
The index had been edging lower since reaching a peak of +15 during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but the drop in the second quarter of this year was particularly large.
At the time, an escalating debt crisis in Europe and a deteriorating outlook for domestic growth had resulted in substantial declines in both business and consumer confidence.
But it now appeared that confidence levels had fallen further than the slowdown justified, resulting in a slight recovery during the third quarter.
The latest reading remained low and not supportive of strong growth in consumer spending.
During the quarter, consumers' rating of the prospects for their own finances and the appropriateness of the present time to buy durable goods each improved by three index points.
However, the economic outlook sub-index of the CCI edged up by only one index point.
Most of the fieldwork for the survey was conducted before police opened fire on striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine, killing 34 people on August 16.
This factor could continue to weigh on consumer sentiment during the fourth quarter.
"The violent and prolonged strikes in the mining sector, in particular, have increased uncertainty, which may well impair fixed investment and employment growth prospects in the country," said Cees Bruggemans, chief economist of FNB.
Consumers had become more cautious about purchasing durable goods compared to the 2010-2011 period.
However, the decline in the time to buy durable goods sub-index of the CCI over the last year had been much less pronounced.
"Sustained strong growth in vehicle financing, credit card debt and other forms of unsecured lending, coupled with price discounting and historically low interest rates, have bolstered the durable goods sub-index and durable goods sales volumes," said Bruggemans. – Sapa.