Consumer confidence indices reveal a mixed message
It apparently all depends on whom you ask, with a decidedly mixed message on consumer confidence this week. The University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index, released this morning, shows an uptick to 74.3 for August, it’s highest level since May. That was higher than most economists had predicted and up from the preliminary estimate of 73.6. (Although it’s worth noting that the gauge was in the 80s before the recession.)
Earlier this week, though, measures from both The Conference Board and Bloomberg found consumers to be less optimistic. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index dropped from 65.4 in July to 60.6 this month, its lowest level since November 2011. The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index stood at -47.4, basically unchanged from last week’s -47.3, which was the lowest level since January.
Although all three indices measure their numbers in slightly different ways, one trend that did carry across the board was a decline in future expectations for the economy.
“A more pessimistic outlook was the primary reason for this month’s decline in confidence,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers were more apprehensive about business and employment prospects, but more optimistic about their financial prospects despite rising inflation expectations.”