Consumer confidence in the U.S. was on the rise in the second quarter of 2016, according to the Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index. The research company reported a three-point confidence increase to 113. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism, respectively. In contrast, the global consumer confidence index for the same period was flat at 98.

The data don't necessarily square with other surveys that report high level's of dissatisfaction with the direction in which the country is headed, which Rasmussen reported ran between 65% and 72% throughout the quarter. Nielsen's data is sunnier:

  • U.S. confidence has been at or above the optimism baseline of 100 for more than two years (since Q1 2014).
  • Despite public discourse surrounding refugees, immigration and the ongoing threat of terrorism, Americans listed the economy (34%) as their biggest or second biggest concern. Health (17%), terrorism (17%), debt (15%) and job security (14%) were also cited by Americans as their biggest or second-biggest concern.
  • Anxieties about political stability increased 10 percentage points from last year (Q2 2015) to 14% of respondents in the second quarter—a level that held steady from the first quarter of 2016.
  • More than half of U.S respondents were confident that personal finances (70%), immediate spending intentions (58%) and job prospects (56%) would be good or excellent in the next 12 months—each indicator showed improvement from the first quarter.
  • Personal finance sentiment and immediate spending intentions increased two percentage points each in the second quarter and the outlook for jobs rose four percentage points.

"With U.S. unemployment at a rate of 5% or below since August 2015 and the housing market continuing to expand, American consumers have been spending," said Louise Keely, senior vice president at Nielsen. "However, not all sectors are benefiting equally. Packaged goods retail sectors and value oriented retail channels, in particular, are experiencing slower growth than that of overall consumer spending."

Other notable global highlights include:

  • In Asia-Pacific, confidence was relatively stable at 107, a one-point decrease from the first quarter. Japan's confidence was of particular significance since it decreased four points to 69; it was Japan's fourth consecutive quarter of declining scores, amid weak consumption and wage growth. Japan's GDP has been on a declining trend since 1997 and is currently at 0.5%. Japan's exports fell for the eighth consecutive month in May. China's score increased one point to 106.
  • In Latin America, confidence remained at 78, unchanged from the first quarter. Brazil's score was flat at 74, while Peru's score increased 11 points to 102.
  • In the Middle East/Africa, confidence was stable at 89, a one-point increase from the first quarter. The United Arab Emirates' second-quarter score reversed a four-point decline in the first quarter with a five-point increase to 109.
  • In Europe, confidence in Germany decreased one point to 96. Meanwhile, Nordic countries and Eastern Europe showed confidence increases in the second quarter.

"Global economic growth continues to be sluggish, with wide variation in growth rates," said Keely. "Economic concerns such as weak commodity prices and job prospects, and political concerns, such as terrorism and political stability, have been higher among consumers in countries directly affected by situations such as terrorist attacks or soft commodity demand. Still, in many markets, consumer spending continues to be a bright spot. Consumer confidence has remained stable on average over the past several quarters."

Established in 2005, the Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index is fielded quarterly in 63 countries to measure the perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances, immediate spending intentions and related economic issues of real consumers around the world.