Johannesburg - South African consumer confidence has fallen to the lowest score since 2004 at 54.7 for the first half of 2011, according to the latest MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence.
The forward-looking index moved from 59.8 a year ago and declined further to 58.6 six months ago.
Released twice a year, the index involves 10 502 consumers from 24 markets and measures consumer confidence on prevailing expectations in the market for the next six months.
Five economic indicators are looked at - including the economy, employment, stock market, regular income and quality of life.
The survey was conducted between September and November 2010. An index score of zero represents the most pessimistic, 100 as most optimistic and 50 as neutral.
Declining confidence levels have also been reported in the majority of countries that form the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region covered by the index.
MasterCard Worldwide Southern Africa area manager Anna Jones says while the latest index results show consumer confidence slipping to a historic low, South African consumers nevertheless continue to remain on the positive side of the scale.
Independent economic advisor Roelof Botha says the timing of the survey should be taken into account.
He notes that in the case of South Africa, the period between the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter was characterised by slower economic growth and general weakness in a number of key economic indicators.
The most notable decreases in optimism came from the economy, stock market and employment, which decreased significantly by 8.6 points to 48.6.
Regular income was the most optimistic of the five survey points, increasing slightly from 68.3 to 69.2.
Botha says the accuracy of the survey results for regular income is illustrated by the fact that real disposable income levels of households have bounced back strongly during the first half of 2010.
Interest rate cuts amounting to 650 basis points since late 2008 have given disposable incomes a boost and lowered the cost of credit.