"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Consumer Confidence. Is There Any?

The Conference Boards Consumer Confidence Index is a survey of some five thousand households, looking for information on consumer attitudes on the current economy and their expectations for the future. The Street likes this measure because, although consumer confidence does not have a causal link with consumer spending, the more confident consumers are about the economy the more likely they are to part with their hard-earned (and ever-debasing [1]) money. The index is benchmarked to 1995 equaling 100.

Now, consumer confidence hit a level of 49.9 in October. Analysts are looking for a further increase of 2.1 in November, bringing the level to 52.0. How did we do?

You can read the report on The Conference Board's website. In short form, the index improved to 54.1 (an unexpectedly good increase of 4.2). The Present Situation Index is still bleak (rising 0.5 to a level of 24.0), and the Expectations Index increased 6.7 to a level of 74.2. 43.6% believe business conditions are bad (up 1.3%), while only 8.1% of respondents believe business conditions are good (down 0.2%). Far more respondents also believe jobs are hard to et (46.5%, up 0.2%) than those who believe jobs are plentiful (4.0%, but up 0.5%). 16.7% of respondents expect business conditions to improve in the next six months (up 0.9%), and 15.5% of respondents expect the job market to improve (up 1.0%).

Overall, that's good news. Not great, but good. It shows that Americans are more confident about the future than the present, "but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"[2].

[1] Inflation. The more it rises, the less your current money is worth. Money that is worth less than it was is pretty much the definition of debased currency.
[2] Robert Browning

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