Confidence among U.S. consumers fell in August by the most in 10 months as households grew more pessimistic about their employment prospects and the economic outlook.
Bloomberg reported that the Conference Board’s index decreased to 60.6 from a revised 65.4 in July, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The 4.8-point decrease was the biggest since October. The reading was less than the most- pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey in which the median projection was 66.
Rising gasoline prices, a jobless rate that’s been above 8% since the start of 2009 and limited income gains are keeping consumers glum. Persistent pessimism raises the risk of a pullback in household purchases that account for about 70% of the world’s biggest economy.
“The consumer is still very cautious,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, New York, who projected a drop in sentiment. “The labor market is still relatively weak. There’s a lot of uncertainty about policy ahead of the election” and fuel costs have accelerated, he said.
This month’s confidence reading was the lowest since November. Estimates for the Conference Board gauge ranged from 61 to 68 in the Bloomberg survey of 77 economists. The measure averaged 53.7 during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.
U.S. consumer sentiment cooled again in early July to its lowest level in seven months as Americans took a dim view of their finances and job prospects, a survey released on Friday showed.
According to Reuters, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment fell to 72.0 from 73.2 in June, frustrating economists’ expectations for a slight gain to 73.4.
It was the lowest level since December 2011.
Only 19% of consumers expected to be financially better off in the coming year, the lowest proportion recorded by the survey. Americans were also gloomy about their longer-term prospects with 39% anticipating their situation would be better in five years.
“The greatest concern to consumers is that wage and job growth will remain depressed over the foreseeable future, and that these meager gains are likely to be further diminished in the years ahead by rising taxes and benefit cutbacks,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.
The gauge of consumer expectations slipped to 64.8 from 67.8, also the lowest since last December.
While there was widespread recognition of an economic slowdown, that did not have a large impact on consumers’ economic outlook, and the barometer of current economic conditions rose to 83.2 from 81.5.
News of job losses was mentioned twice as frequently as job gains, the opposite of what was seen in the first six months of the year.
Americans can’t seem to shake their uneasy feeling about the economy.
The Associated Press reported that consumer confidence fell in June for the fourth straight month as worries about the economy outweighed relief at the gas pump, according to a private research group.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index is at 62. That’s down from the 64.4 reading in May and the 63.2 analysts were expecting. The index remains well below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy — a level it hasn’t been near since the recession began in December 2007. But it’s far from the all-time low of 25.3 reached in February 2009.
The indicator is widely watched because consumer spending, including major items like health care, accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity. The index illustrates that Americans are worried about hiring, home values, the stock market and a worsening European economy that some fear will hurt the U.S.
“Consumers were somewhat more positive about current conditions, but slightly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board in a statement. “If this trend continues, spending may be restrained in the short-term.”
Worries about job and income growth seemed to weigh the heaviest on consumers in the index survey, which is based on a poll conducted from June 1 through June 14 with about 500 randomly selected people nationwide.
Still, Americans have some reasons to be optimistic. A widely watched home price index, released Tuesday, offered some hope for the housing market. Home prices rose in nearly all major U.S. cities in April, according to The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index. That’s the second straight month that prices have increased in a majority of U.S. cities.
Shoppers also are getting some relief at the gas pump. Gas prices have falling from their peak in early April. Gasoline prices fell 4 cents over the weekend to a national average of $3.41 per gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. And experts say gas could fall another 11 cents by July 4, next week
Consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level since October 2007 as Americans became more upbeat about the prospects for employment.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment climbed to 79.3, the ninth straight increase, from 76.4 the prior month. The gauge was projected to hold at the preliminary reading of 77.8, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
A record number of households said they’d heard better news on the jobs outlook, which combined with cheaper gasoline and an improving housing market may help sustain consumer spending and shield the economy from Europe’s debt crisis. The figures also showed 63 percent of Americans, the most in more than a year, had a favorable view of buying conditions for big-ticket items.
“This is telling us the consumer is feeling OK,” said Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York, who projected a final reading of 78.5 in May. “There seems to be enough real improvement in the job market for confidence to be increasing. When confidence readings increase, you can be pretty sure consumer spending numbers will go up.”
Estimates for the confidence measure ranged from 76 to 79, according to the Bloomberg survey of 60 economists. The index averaged 64.2 during the last recession and 89 in the five years before the 18-month economic slump that ended in June 2009.
U.S. consumer sentiment rose to its highest level in more than four years in early May as Americans remained upbeat about the job market, a survey released on Friday showed.
Reuters reported that separate data earlier in the day showed U.S. producer prices unexpectedly fell in April as energy costs dropped by the most in six months, a sign of easing inflation pressures that could give the Federal Reserve more room to help the economy should growth weaken.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary May reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment improved to 77.8 from 76.4 in April, topping forecasts for a small decline to 76.2.
It was the highest level since January 2008.
Despite the recent slowdown in job growth, nearly twice as many consumers reported hearing about new job gains than said they had heard about recent job losses, the survey said.
Even so, consumers were only slightly more optimistic about declines in the unemployment rate than they were a year ago, with only one in four expecting it to fall in the year ahead.
However, economists polled by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, expect the U.S. unemployment rate to average 8.1% this year, and to fall to 7.7% next year.
Employers cut back on hiring in April and March after an acceleration at the start of the year. April’s unemployment rate eased to 8.1% as more people dropped out of the work force.
In a potential harbinger of increased spending, consumers’ buying plans for vehicles and durable goods improved at the beginning of the month, with 65% saying buying conditions were favorable, the highest level in more than a year.
“Households are feeling more comfortable. It’s pretty good news for consumer spending,” said Gus Faucher, senior macroeconomist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh.
More Americans this month said the economy was improving than at any time in eight years as the job market picked up.
The share of households viewing the economy as heading in the right direction rose to 34% in March, the most since January 2004, pushing the Bloomberg monthly expectations gauge to a one-year high of 1. The weekly Bloomberg Comfort Index was minus 34.9 in the period ended March 18, down from a four-year high of minus 33.7 over the previous seven days.
“The sense that things have finally stabilized has clearly boosted confidence,” said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “Downside risk to both the overall level of comfort and Americans perceptions of the direction of the economy remains” as fuel prices increase, he said.
The best six months of job growth since 2006 is probably behind the increase in optimism, raising the odds that the spending that accounts for about 70% of the economy will strengthen. Gains in incomes and employment may be among reasons households have so far been able to weather the jump in gasoline prices.
The weekly comfort index has been higher than minus 40 for the past six weeks, the longest stretch of readings above recession levels since the first half of 2008.
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in four years, reinforcing signs the labor market is improving, Labor Department figures showed today. Jobless claims decreased by 5,000 to 348,000 in the week ended March 17, the fewest since February 2008.
Confidence among men was minus 28.2 last week, up from last year’s low of minus 51.3 reached in September. The measure for women, at minus 41.3, has climbed 15.2 points from its 2011 low.
Still, higher gasoline prices may be limiting gains in confidence. The average price of regular gasoline at the pump climbed to a 10-month high of $3.86 a gallon on March 20, according to AAA, the nation’s largest auto club. It’s climbed 58 cents this year.
“We’re beginning to see positive signs that the economy is improving,” Randy Potts, president, chairman and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., said during a March 15 conference call. “Consumer confidence has been trending higher, and the jobless rate is improving. Both the stock market and housing markets are showing signs of improvement, but rising fuel prices do remain a concern.”
Inflation remains tame throughout the U.S. economy, with one big exception: gas prices.
The Associated Press reported that those higher prices haven’t derailed a steadily improving economy. But if they surpass $4 or $5 a gallon, experts fear Americans could pull back on spending, and job growth could stall, posing a potentially serious threat to the recovery.
A few weeks ago, economists generally agreed that the economy was in little danger from higher gas prices as long as job growth remained strong. But fears are now mounting that gas prices could begin to weaken consumer confidence.
The average pump price nationwide is $3.83 a gallon. Energy analysts say it’s bound to climb higher in the weeks ahead.
“It’s a thorn in the side of the consumer and businesses,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight. The economy this year “would have been better and stronger if we didn’t have to deal with this.”
So far, higher prices aren’t undermining the economic recovery, which is getting a lift from strong job creation. It would take a big jump – to around $5 a gallon – before most economists would worry that growth would halt and the economy would slide into another recession.
That’s because an improving economy is somewhat insulated from any threat posed by higher prices at the pump.
Even if prices ease after the summer driving season, don’t expect gasoline to fall below $3 a gallon. The government estimates that this year’s average will be $3.79, followed by $3.72 in 2013.
According to the Associated Press, most economists accept a rough guideline that a 25-cent rise in gas prices knocks about two-tenths of a percentage point off economic growth.
Gas prices also have an outsize impact on consumer confidence, Christopher noted. It’s a high-frequency purchase. Consumers notice the price whether they’re filling up or driving past a gas station.
Along with the unemployment rate and stock market levels, gasoline prices heavily determine how Americans see their financial health.
That effect was evident Friday when a decline was reported in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment. The result surprised some economists who had assumed that higher stock prices and lower unemployment would lift consumer sentiment.
The Michigan report showed that “gasoline worries … are outweighing stock market gains and job growth” when it comes to influencing consumer attitudes, said Michael Hanson, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The price of gasoline has climbed 17% since the year began – to a national average of $3.83 a gallon. That’s the highest ever for this time of year. A month ago, it was $3.52.
U.S. consumer confidence jumped in February, lifted by better assessments of the job market, according to a report released Tuesday.
NASDAQ.com reported that the Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer confidence increased to 70.8 this month from a revised 61.5 in January, first reported as 61.1. The February index is the highest since 72.0 in February 2011.
The latest index was far above the 64.4 expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.
The confidence report echoes the better attitudes reported last Friday by the Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan late February survey of consumer sentiment.
“Consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor market conditions than they were in January,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “And despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects and their financial situation.”
Better labor markets are driving the more upbeat economic view.
The survey showed 38.7% think jobs are “hard to get,” down from 43.3% in January, and 6.6% think jobs are “plentiful,” up from 6.2% thinking that last month.
Consumers also think the job situation will improve over the next six months. The report shows 18.7% think there will be more jobs, up from 16.4% thinking that in January, and 16.9% expect fewer jobs, down from 19.1%.
Households also feel slightly more upbeat about future income, with 15.4% thinking their incomes will increase over the next six months, up from 13.8% saying that in January.
Despite the recent jump in gasoline prices, consumers, on average, expect inflation to be 5.5% 12 months from now, unchanged from the one-year rate expected in January.
Confidence among U.S. consumers rose more than forecast in January to the highest level in almost a year, on signs of improvement in the job market.
Bloomberg reported that the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment climbed to 75 from 69.9 at the end of December. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey called for 74, which matched the preliminary reading. The gauge averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.
A strengthening labor market and higher stock prices may be boosting confidence, helping raise the odds that a pickup in household spending will continue into this quarter. At the same time, a sustained increase in gasoline prices and limited wage gains may restrain sentiment.
“Rising equity prices will be the primary catalyst for consumers’ better moods in the second half of January,” Aaron Smith, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “Retail gasoline prices and policy uncertainties will limit the increase in confidence.”
Estimates for sentiment in the Bloomberg survey of 63 economists ranged from 72.5 to 76. The index averaged 64.2 during the last recession.
The U.S. economy expanded less than forecast in the fourth quarter as consumers curbed spending and government agencies cut back, validating the Federal Reserve’s decision this week to keep interest rates low for a longer period.
Consumer sentiment rose to its highest level in six months in early December as Americans adopted an improved economic outlook while the trade deficit narrowed in October, pointing to gathering momentum in the economy, according to Reuters.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading on their index of consumer confidence climbed for a fourth straight month to 67.7, beating expectations as it rose from 64.1 in November.
“U.S. consumers appear to be ending the year in a better mood,” said Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics in London.
Improved confidence could lead Americans to spend more readily, which would add to the recent momentum from retail sales and factory output. At the same time, the narrowing in the trade deficit showed more of the purchases U.S. businesses and consumers are making were produced within the country.
Employment has also made gains in recent months, although some economists expect the pace of improvement will be too slow for consumers to ramp up spending for long.
“Although the recent increase may provide that little bit of support to spending in the malls in the coming weeks, it won’t lead to a long and lasting acceleration in consumption growth,” said Dales.
The sentiment reading exceeded the 65.5 forecast by analysts who were polled by Reuters.
Measures of consumers’ current and future assessment of economic and financial conditions also rose to their highest levels since June. The gauge of consumer expectations jumped to 61.1 from 55.4 in November.