Although U.S. consumers kept a recessionary mindset in the first quarter of 2013, they exhibited a cautious desire to spend money again, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions. The New York-based market research firm reported that 42 percent of respondents said they plan to spend money on discretionary items this year, which is a six-point rise from the fourth quarter of 2012 and an increase from the average of 33 percent during the last three years.

North America led the charge in terms of spending intentions, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, which reported an increase of 2 percentage points to 39 percent. Consumer confidence in central and northern Europe increased in the first quarter, surpassing year-ago levels. Comparatively, spending intentions declined among respondents in Latin America by 35 percent, Middle East/Africa by 33 percent, and Europe by 27 percent, according to the survey.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions measures consumer confidence, major concerns and spending intentions among more than 29,000 respondents with Internet access in 58 countries.

"Buoyed by a nascent revival of the U.S. housing market, a strengthening of employment rates, and an increase in retail sales in the first quarter, Americans demonstrated an eagerness to spend again,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen, in a statement. “However, volatile economic factors, such as inflation and fuel prices, continue to affect U.S. households, which will make continued growth an ongoing challenge.”

James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights for Nielsen, added: “In the U.S., the increase in reported discretionary spending is not a rising tide affecting all ships. Nearly four years after the official recession hit, more than three-quarters of Americans are still feeling the effects. With close to two-thirds of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, consumers are significantly affected by continued volatile economic factors, such as job growth [and] rising food and fuel prices.”

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