SANTIAGO, June 11 (Reuters) - Consumer confidence in Chile stabilized in May after falling sharply for two straight months, but still remained near multi-year lows as political scandals and sluggish growth continued to plague the top copper exporter, a survey by pollster GfK Adimark showed Thursday.
The poll of 1,097 people, which was conducted in May, indicated that the economic perception index sat at 39, up slightly from April, when the index slumped to 38.3.
Still, sentiment had not dropped below the 40 level since Chile’s 2009 recession, and the index has been reading below the 50 level, which indicates that the number of people negative on the economy outweighs the positive, since June 2014.
A sweeping cabinet change by center-left President Michelle Bachelet on May 11, in a bid to wipe the political slate clean and shift the public eye away from the financial and political scandals, likely had a positive effect on consumer sentiment, Adimark said.
Also boosting sentiment was so-called ‘CyberDay,’ a one-time online shopping holiday.
May was “a month with mixed signals in which the cabinet change probably boosted consumer confidence, but other signals offset this effect,” Adimark said.
“Consumers appear positively predisposed to resume their consumption habits in the face of any signs of decreasing uncertainty,” the pollster said.
In recent months Chile’s business and political elite has been rocked by allegations of cronyism and of accepting illicit campaign contributions from major businesses, a situation which has been blamed for creating a climate of uncertainty.
Additionally, sentiment was likely held in check by a customs strike in May that hurt exports and ongoing, sometimes violent protests over some of Bachelet’s proposed reforms.
Economic growth in Chile slowed to a five-year low of 1.9 percent in Chile in 2014 and has been slow to recover in 2015, owing to soft domestic demand and natural disasters that have slammed the nation. (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Diane Craft)