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Consumer Confidence at 11-Month High

August 30, 2016

by Doug Short

The latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released this morning based on data collected through August 18. The headline number of 101.1 was a solid increase from the final reading of 96.7 for July, a downward revision from 97.3. Today's number was substantially above the Investing.com consensus of 97.0. This is the highest reading of the past 11 months.

Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board press release.

“Consumer confidence improved in August to its highest level in nearly a year, after a marginal decline in July,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of both current business and labor market conditions was considerably more favorable than last month. Short-term expectations regarding business and employment conditions, as well as personal income prospects, also improved, suggesting the possibility of a moderate pick-up in growth in the coming months.”

Putting the Latest Number in Context

The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The 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 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.

Consumer Confidence

On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 63rd percentile of all the monthly data points since June 1977, up from the 53rd percentile the previous month.

For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.

Consumer Sentiment

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, although a bit of spread has appeared in the second half of 2015 and start of 2016.

NFIB Optimism and Consumer Confidence