The Latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released this morning based on data collected through September 18. The headline number of 86.0 was a surprising decline over the revised August final reading of 93.4, an upward revision from 92.4. Today's number was well below the Investing.com forecast of 92.5. The current level is a four-month-low.
Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board press release.
Says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board: “Consumer confidence retreated in September after four consecutive months of improvement. A less positive assessment of the current job market, most likely due to the recent softening in growth, was the sole reason for the decline in consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions. Looking ahead, consumers were less confident about the short-term outlook for the economy and labor market, and somewhat mixed regarding their future earnings potential. All told, consumers expect economic growth to ease in the months ahead.”
Consumers assessed current conditions less favorably in September compared to a month ago. Their view of business conditions was virtually unchanged: those saying conditions are “good” fell minutely, from 23.5 to 23.4 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” held constant at 21.3 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market declined more appreciably, with the proportion stating jobs are “plentiful” falling from 17.6 percent to 15.1 percent. Those claiming jobs are “hard to get” was barely changed, at 30.1 percent versus 30.0 percent in August.
Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook declined considerably in September. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 20.8 percent to 18.6 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen rose from 9.9 percent to 12.0 percent. Consumers’ outlook for the labor market likewise took a downturn. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead fell from 17.8 percent to 15.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs rose from 15.2 percent to 17.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting growth in their incomes rose in September to 16.8 percent, compared to 15.5 percent in August. However, the proportion
Putting the Latest Number in Context
Let's take a step back and put Lynn Franco's interpretation in a larger perspective. The table here shows the average consumer confidence levels for each of the five recessions during the history of this monthly data series, which dates from June 1977. The latest number is 16.6 points above the recession mindset and 8.2 points below the non-recession average.
The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end I have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The exponential regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope clearly resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference. Today's reading of 86.0 is well above the current regression point of 78.4.
On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 39.5 percentile of all the monthly readings since the start of the monthly data series in June 1977 and at the 34.2 percentile of non-recessionary months.
For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see my post on the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.
And finally, let's take a look at the correlation between consumer confidence and small business sentiment, the latter by way of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index. As the chart illustrates, the two have tracked one another fairly closely since the onset of the Financial Crisis.