Nielsen NV's Consumer Confidence Index declined four percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2014 amid a weakening outlook for employment and personal finances in smaller cities, the marketing and research firm said on Tuesday.
The index stood at 107 in the fourth quarter, down from 111 in the previous three-month period. It was the first decline in four quarters.
But the big picture in China has not changed, Nielsen said.
"Chinese consumers remain optimistic about job prospects, personal finances and spending in the coming year when compared with their global peers for most of the markets," said Yan Xuan, president of Nielsen China.
For 2014 as a whole, the index was 110, unchanged from 2013 and 13 percentage points higher than the global average.
China ranked sixth among the 60 countries and regions measured in Nielsen's global Consumer Confidence Index tracking.
The index reflects perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions. Levels above and below the baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism, respectively.
"Our survey also showed that consumer confidence in bigger cities, where income growth and buying power are comparatively stronger, got a healthy boost," said Yan.
Confidence in job prospects and personal finances each rose three percentage points in the first-tier cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Spending intentions were up by four percentage points year-on-year.
"For consumers in the biggest cities, all three key indicators of Nielsen's Consumer Confidence Index－employment expectations, personal finances and spending intention for the next 12 months－reached record highs in the fourth quarter," said Kiki Fan, managing director of Nielsen China.
"That can be attributed to factors including expectations for a stable economy and well-controlled consumer prices, aspirations for a high-quality life and an established habit of online shopping," Fan said.
Nielsen's report also showed that nine out of 10 consumers in first-tier cities shopped online in 2014, up 12 percentage points from 2013.
"The confidence dip in the fourth quarter will not have a big impact on the Chinese consumer market, where the transition from meeting the basic demands to satisfying aspirations for a better life is happening across the country," said Fan.