Pessimism took a firmer hold of consumers in the final quarter of last year as concerns about job prospects soured sentiment.

Singapore scored 97 on the Nielsen consumer confidence index for the last three months of last year, a tad down from 98 in the previous quarter.

A reading below 100 indicates pessimism. Singapore has been scoring under 100 in the quarterly survey since the third quarter of 2011, said Nielsen, an information company.

Even with the rather gloomy reading, the Singapore score is still better than the global average of 94.

The marginal dip in consumer confidence here in the fourth quarter was driven by a slight increase in the number of consumers worried about job prospects: From 34 per cent in the third quarter survey to 38 per cent.

Nonetheless, Singaporeans stayed relatively upbeat about their personal finances, and expressed a willingness to spend.

Of the 505 respondents, 54 per cent said their personal finances over the following 12 months would likely be good or excellent - the same as in the third quarter.

And 36 per cent felt that the next 12 months would be a good time to buy the things they need or want, up 1 percentage point from the previous quarter.

Almost half, or 49 per cent, said they also planned to spend on holidays and vacations, up from 45 per cent in the third quarter and the highest level globally.

This sentiment could be the result of consumers having more spare cash, Nielsen said yesterday.

The proportion of respondents who said they had no spare cash fell from 9 per cent in the third quarter to 6 per cent in the fourth.

"While Singaporeans are feeling less positive about their job prospects, the fact that they continue to be optimistic about their personal financial situations and that they are willing to spend on vacations indicate that consumers' confidence is still relatively positive," said Mr Luca Griseri, Nielsen's head of financial services in Singapore and Malaysia.

Singaporeans also continued to be avid savers, with 64 per cent saying they would channel excess funds into savings, the same proportion as in the third quarter.

The share of respondents who would invest excess cash into retirement funds also stayed the same, at 23 per cent.

But only 26 per cent said they planned to invest in stocks or mutual funds, down from 30 per cent in the third quarter.