WRAPUP 1-Canada consumer sentiment mixed in January

* RBC consumer outlook index dips 2 points to 106

* 52 percent describe economy as bad

* Job anxiety rises across the country

* Conference Board poll finds sentiment at 23-month high

TORONTO, Feb 1 (BestGrowthStock) – 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.
[ID:nN29201456] (ECONCA: )

According to RBC, slightly more than one in four Canadians,
or 26 percent, say that a member of their household is worried
about losing their job or being laid off, up from 21 percent in
December. Job anxiety rose in every province.

The conference board reported that 26.7 percent of
Canadians expect there to be more job opportunities in their
communities six months from now, up 2.6 percentage points from
December and the highest positive response recorded since the
monthly poll began in 2002.

Only 17.4 percent expected fewer jobs, compared with 50
percent who held that view a year earlier.

Only RBC asked about personal debt levels, finding that
nearly 60 percent of respondents were worried about their debt
level, although those older than 55 expressed less concern,
likely because fewer of them are still carrying heavy debt
loads.

Regarding overall personal finances, both surveys reported
a better outlook. The portion of Canadians who think their
personal financial situation will improve over the next three
months rose to 32 percent in January from 30 percent in
December, and more than four in 10 expect an improvement over
the next year, according to RBC.

The Conference Board found the number of consumers who were
more confident in their future personal finances jumped 6.8
percentage points in the month to 33.5 percent and those who
felt their finances would deteriorate dropped to 10.6 percent,
the lowest level in nearly two years.

The survey comes weeks after the Bank of Canada urged
caution on household debt. Governor Mark Carney has been
reminding Canadians to manage their personal finances so they
will still be able to handle them in “ordinary times” when the
central bank raises interest rates again. [ID:nBAC002356]

RBC’s report showed Carney’s remarks may have had an
impact. Sixty-eight percent expected interest rates to rise in
the next six months, compared with 57 percent in December.

Canadian rates have been at historic lows since April and
the central bank has pledged to hold them there until the end
of June, as long as inflation remains in check.

The RBC index is based on an online survey of 1,014
Canadians, ages 18 and over, conducted between Jan. 8 and 14.

The Conference Board survey was conducted between Jan. 7
and Jan. 24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8
percent.

Stock Market Today
(Reporting by Ka Yan Ng and Louise Egan; Editing by Jeffrey
Hodgson and Peter Galloway)

WRAPUP 1-Canada consumer sentiment mixed in January