Consumer sentiment slips in June but still remains high
ANN ARBOR—Consumer confidence in June slipped to its lowest level since President Trump was elected, although the overall level still remains quite favorable, according to the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
The average level of the Sentiment Index during the first half of 2017 was 96.8, the best half-year average since the second half of 2000, and the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans stood at 39 Index-points in June, nearly identical to the 38 point gap in February, according to U-M economist Richard Curtin, who directs the surveys.
The partisan divide still meant that June’s Sentiment Index of 95.1 was nearly equal to both the average (95.7) between the optimism of Republicans and the pessimism of Democrats and the value for Independents (94.6). Even with a much-improved 2nd quarter, personal consumption spending is expected to advance during 2017 by about 2.3 percent.
Conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research since 1946, the surveys monitor consumer attitudes and expectations. The data are available non-exclusively via Bloomberg.
“The most important policies to consumers are those that directly or indirectly affect their jobs, incomes and their financial security,” Curtin said. “Fortunately, the heightened concerns consumers now express about future prospects for the economy have thus far been offset by the renewed strength in their personal financial situation.
“The combination of continuing improvements in personal finances and increasing concerns about the economic outlook is typical around cyclical peaks. Nonetheless, the data provide no indication of an imminent downturn nor do the data provide any indication of a resurgent boom in spending.”
Personal finances reach decade peak
The highest number of consumers reported an improved financial situation in June than at any time since November 2000. The financial strength was due to gains in incomes as well as gains in household wealth driven by rising stock prices and home values. Just one in 10 households in the June 2017 survey expected their household finances to worsen in the year ahead. Overall, personal finances were brighter than at anytime in the last decade.
Partisan economic outlook
Selective perception of economic news still dominates as 80 percent of Democrats reported unfavorable developments, while 87 percent of Republicans reported favorable developments. Democrats reported negative references to government economic policies at about the same rate as last month, but Republicans voiced half as many positive references as they did in the prior month. Overall, for the first time since Trump was elected, more consumers expected a downturn sometime in the next five years than expected an uninterrupted expansion.
Consumer Sentiment Index
The Consumer Sentiment Index was 95.1 in June 2017, between the 97.1 in May and the 93.5 in last June’s survey. The Current Conditions Index was 112.5 in June, just above May’s 111.7 and last June’s 110.8. The Expectations Index declined to 83.9 in June from 87.7 in May but was above last June’s 82.4. The Expectations Index fell to its lowest value since just prior to Trump’s election.
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The Surveys of Consumers is a rotating panel survey based on a nationally representative sample that gives each household in the coterminous U.S. an equal probability of being selected. Interviews are conducted throughout the month by telephone. The minimum monthly change required for significance at the 95-percent level in the Sentiment Index is 4.8 points; for Current and Expectations Indices the minimum is 6 points.