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

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Friday, January 28, 2011

(There Is Very Little ) Consumer Confidence

This is, of course, an attempt to gauge how confident consumers are about current economic conditions and about the future. Analysts really only try to predict the Consumer Sentiment portion of the index (and they're looking for 73.0, down from December's 74.5), because that's the snapshot of overall consumer attitudes, but it is still useful to look at the Consumer Expectations Index (67.5 in December) and the Current Conditions Index (85.3 in December).
So, how did we do? Well, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan release is titled "Rising Prices Worry Consumers". That is a proverbial inauspicious start. The Consumer Sentiment Index came in at 74.2 (beating expectations, but down from last month), while Consumer Expectations rose to 69.3 and the Current Conditions Index fell to 81.8. Here's a few other data points to mull over:
  • Only 22% of all consumers surveyed expect the unemployment rate to increase during 2011.
  • The majority of consumers surveyed do not expect their income to increase in 2011; stagnating or falling household incomes are expected, particularly once income is adjusted for inflation.
  • The majority of consumers, who are having to pay more for food and fuel, are not impressed with core inflation.
  • Increased household durables and vehicle prices are lowering consumers' buying attitudes, particularly among higher income households.
The Street may like the fact that Consumer Confidence beat expectations, but it's hard to see the overall comments as a win.

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