The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment jumped higher in June. The Consumer Confidence Index increased from 94.6 in May to 101.4 in June, matching its level of March and coming after two months of softness in the data. Sentiment continues to remain below the post-recessionary peak observed in January (103.8), but overall, this report suggests that Americans’ attitudes have rebounded from weaknesses earlier in the year. In addition, confidence has risen from one year ago when the index was 86.4. Despite these improvements, the public continues to remain somewhat anxious about labor and income growth. (continue reading…)
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The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment rebounded a little in May. The Consumer Confidence Index has been quite volatile over the past six months, ranging from a low of 91.0 in November to a high of 103.8 in January (a post-recessionary peak). Confidence plummeted to 94.3 in April, but it edged somewhat higher to 95.4 in May. On the positive side, Americans are more confident today than they were one year ago (when the index was 82.2), and they were slightly more upbeat for the month. Yet, these data indicate that the public remains anxious about employment and income growth, mirroring softer-than-desired economic data in the early months of this year. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment pulled back again in April. The Consumer Confidence Index has been quite volatile over the past few months. After jumping from 93.1 in December to 103.8 in January (its highest level since August 2007), it has measured 98.8, 101.4 and 95.2 in February, March and April, respectively. Despite the back-and-forth swings each month, the index measuring current conditions has edged lower for three consecutive months, down from 113.9 in January to 106.8 in April. This figure continues to reflect progress in overall attitudes over the longer-term, and yet, it mirrors recent softness in a number of economic data points. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that the Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.2 percent in February, the same pace as observed in January. However, this was slower than the stronger rate of growth experienced just four months ago, when the LEI increased by 0.6 percent in October. Weaknesses abroad, a stronger U.S. dollar, weather and factors have been headwinds on the U.S. economy, which continues to expand modestly but at a slower rate. This can be seen in the latest industrial production, housing starts and retail sales figures, for instance. Specific to the LEI, new orders have decelerated, providing a bit of a drag on the headline number. Other challenges included the average workweek and initial unemployment claims. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment fell sharply in February. The Consumer Confidence Index declined from a revised 103.8 in January to 96.4 in February. The January figure had been originally reported to be 102.9, and it was the highest point for this measure since August 2007. The decrease in attitudes in this report in February mirrored similar drops in perceptions in the most recent University of Michigan and National Federation of Independent Business surveys. Still, the depth of the pullback in February was larger than expected, and it suggests that the American public remains more anxious than desired. (continue reading…)
Consumer confidence rose to its highest level since August 2007, just a few months before the start of the Great Recession. The Consumer Confidence Index from the Conference Board increased from 93.1 in December to 102.9 in January. The increase in perceptions was more than likely positively influenced by lower gasoline prices and better economic news of late. Indeed, the index of present conditions, which gauges sentiment on the current economic environment, jumped from 99.9 to 112.6. The forward-looking subcomponent also improved, up from 88.5 to 96.4. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell in November. The Consumer Confidence Index was anticipated to build on October’s revised 94.1 reading, which was the highest since October 2007. Instead, the index declined to 88.7 in November, its lowest level since June. This figure has seesawed over the past four months, with the index up in August, down in September and then up and down again in October and November. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment rebounded in October after ebbing in September. The Consumer Confidence Index rose from 89.0 in September to 94.5 in October. This was higher than the 93.4 reading observed in August, and both figures were the highest since October 2007, seven years ago and pre-dating the recession. Overall, Americans have become more confident over the course of the past year. In October 2013, the index stood at 72.0, and the public was worried about economic growth in light of the budget deadlock and the government shutdown. (continue reading…)
The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell in September to its lowest level since May. The Consumer Confidence Index declined from a revised 93.4 in August to 86.0 in September. This pullback was even more disappointing given the fact that August’s reading had been the highest since October 2007, nearly seven years ago and pre-dating the recession. Therefore, while confidence remains higher today than earlier in the year, it is clear that Americans still remain anxious about the economy and about labor and income growth. It is also possible that geopolitical events have put the public on edge, dampening optimism. We have similar concerns in comparable data from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters.
Indeed, perceptions about current (down from 93.9 to 89.4) and future (down from 93.1 to 83.7) conditions were both lower for the month, particularly the latter. The percentage of respondents saying that jobs were “plentiful” dropped from 17.6 percent to 15.1 percent, and the percentage expecting their incomes to decrease rose from 11.6 percent to 13.4 percent. These data tend to suggest that there are nagging worries about jobs and the economy. Yet, there were also some positives. The percentage of those taking the survey who felt that their incomes would increase rose from 15.5 percent to 16.8 percent, and overall, many of these measures had made improvements over recent months despite the declines in September.
Buying intentions were also mixed, largely mirroring the reduced confidence described above. The percentages planning to buy a new automobile (down from 13.5 to 12.0 percent) and home (down from 5.3 percent to 4.9 percent) were both lower; yet, the percentage planning to purchase new appliances increased from 45.7 percent to 51.3 percent.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.
Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:
Manufacturers continue to report improved activity in August. Last week, the Dallas, Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks all noted expanding levels of new orders and production for the month, mirroring releases from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks in the prior weeks. These surveys reflect rebounds from earlier in the year, and perhaps more importantly, they suggest a mostly upbeat assessment in demand, output, hiring and capital spending over the next six months. At the same time, the Dallas and Kansas City studies showed some easing in growth rates in August, with the latter indicating that hiring had turned negative for the month. Exports also contracted in the Kansas City district, showing persistent international sales weaknesses in that region. The data illustrate that, even where we have seen progress, there are often some nagging challenges beneath the surface.
This same observation could be made about much of the other data released last week, too. For instance, new durable goods orders soared in July, up a whopping 22.6 percent. This represented an all-time high for the data series, but it was also largely the result of a jump in nondefense aircraft sales. Commercial airplane orders are choppy, with sales usually announced in batches. New durable goods orders have improved from earlier in the year. Outside of transportation, the manufacturing sector was weak in July. New durable goods orders excluding transportation fell 0.8 percent for the month. This suggests that the broader market for manufacturers was soft in July despite the sky-high headline figure.
Along those lines, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence rose to its highest point since October 2007. This increase stemmed from improvements in views about the current economic environment. Yet, the Conference Board’s figures also suggested some lingering worries about employment and income growth. The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters’ report on consumer sentiment seems to focus even more on these anxieties. Even with a marginal increase in the August confidence measure, the University of Michigan data have not changed much this year, and respondents have had a diminished view of future growth over the past few months, not unlike what was seen in the Conference Board data. Geopolitical worries might be playing into these doubts. Either way, the confidence reports mirror other indicators, which show that consumers are cautious right now. Personal spending in July declined for the first time since January, consistent with other data showing flat retail sales.
Despite some softness in July, personal spending has increased at an annualized 4.1 percent over the past six months. Indeed, consumer and business spending were strengths during the second quarter, according to the latest revision of real GDP growth. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent at the annual rate during the second quarter, slightly better than the 4.0 percent original estimate and reflecting a rebound from the 2.1 percent decline in the first quarter. The biggest disappointment in the second quarter continued to be international trade figures, with net exports serving as a drag on growth. Moving forward, I estimate real GDP growth of roughly 3.0 percent during the second half of 2014. A number of risks abound, and business leaders and consumers remain tentative. If the first half of this year has taught us anything, it is an optimistic recovery can still be a fragile one.
This week, we will get additional insights regarding the health of the manufacturing sector. This morning, the Institute for Supply Management will release its August Purchasing Managers’ Index data for the sector. The ISM report found strong gains in demand, output and employment in July, and the August survey is expected to show another pickup in activity. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish new jobs numbers on Friday. Manufacturers have added 15,000 workers on average each month since August 2013, with a 22,000 average from May to July of this year. Look for continued hiring growth for the sector in the August numbers that are at least consistent with the average of the past year. Other highlights this week include the latest data on construction spending, factory orders, international trade and productivity.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.