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U.S. Consumers Most Strapped for Cash, Says ACNielsen Study

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - Many U.S. consumers say they are short on cash this holiday season, which could point to a holiday selling period that's moderate at best, according to a new study from ACNielsen, a provider of consumer and marketplace information.

Of the 28 markets around the world surveyed by ACNielsen, the U.S. had the highest percentage of consumers (28 percent) who say they have no extra money to spend.

Among U.S. consumers who do have spare cash, their first priority for that money is debt repayment. The percentage of U.S. consumers choosing debt repayment (33 percent) was significantly higher than that of consumers in either of the other two major regions studied. Overall the U.S. ranked seventh for debt repayment among the 28 markets included in the survey.

"When it comes to spending money, you can never count U.S. consumers out; their willingness to take on debt is legendary," said Tom Markert, ACNielsen's chief marketing and client service officer. "However, this study adds to a considerable body of research indicating that U.S. consumers are nearing a financial breaking point, pointing to at least a moderate holiday selling season this year."

In the U.S., women were more likely than men (30 percent vs. 22 percent) to say that they have no spare cash, while men were more likely than women (36 percent vs. 32 percent) to say that they use such money to pay off debts. As for specific purchases people make with spare cash, U.S. men were much more likely than women to indicate that they spend it on new technology (20 percent vs. 8 percent).

There were differences by age as well, with older respondents more likely to say that they have no spare cash and younger respondents more likely to say that they spend extra money on debt repayment. Respondents on both ends of the age spectrum were more likely than those in the middle to build savings with spare cash. Younger people were more likely to spend it on home entertainment, clothing, and technology.

While savings was the third-highest-ranking choice (at 23 percent) for U.S. consumers who have extra funds, the U.S. tied with Portugal as having the lowest overall percentage of consumers who put such money into savings.

Below are the No. 1 markets for each of the spending options; plus a look at where the United States ranks among the 28 markets surveyed:

-No spare cash: the U.S. - 28 percent (Portugal ranked second at 18 percent)

-Out of home entertainment: Spain - 60 percent (U.S. ranked tied for 19th)

-New clothes: Netherlands - 51 percent (U.S. ranked tied for 21st)

-New technology: China - 52 percent (U.S. ranked 25th)

-Home improvements/decorating: Denmark - 46 percent (U.S. ranked tied for 16th)

-Short holidays locally: China - 35 percent (U.S. ranked 25th)

-International holidays: Singapore - 33 percent (U.S. ranked 27th)

-Paying off debts/credit cards/loans: Tie between Malaysia and the Philippines - 45 percent (U.S. tied for 7th)

-Savings/deposit account: Indonesia - 59 percent (U.S. tied for last)

-Stock/mutual fund: Taiwan - 32 percent (U.S. ranked 23rd)
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