Preliminary Michigan Consumer Sentiment for December Surges

December 12, 2014

by Doug Short

The Preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment for November came in at 93.8, a strong surge from last month. Today reading is a is a post-recession high and the highest level since January 2007, almost eight years ago. Today's sentiment level came in substantially above the Investing.com forecast of 89.7.

See the chart below for a long-term perspective on this widely watched indicator. I've highlighted recessions and included real GDP to help evaluate the correlation between the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the broader economy.

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To put today's report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is now 10 percent above the average reading (arithmetic mean) and 12 percent above the geometric mean. The current index level is at the 74th percentile of the 444 monthly data points in this series.

The Michigan average since its inception is 85.1. During non-recessionary years the average is 87.4. The average during the five recessions is 69.3. So the latest sentiment number puts us 24.5 points above the average recession mindset and 6.4 points above the non-recession average.

Note that this indicator is somewhat volatile with a 3.1 point absolute average monthly change. The latest month was a larger 5.0 point change. For a visual sense of the volatility, here is a chart with the monthly data and a three-month moving average.

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For the sake of comparison, here is a chart of the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index (monthly update here). The Conference Board Index is the more volatile of the two, but the broad pattern and general trends have been remarkably similar to the Michigan Index.

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And finally, the prevailing mood of the Michigan survey is also similar to the mood of small business owners, as captured by the NFIB Business Optimism Index (monthly update here).

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The general trend in the Michigan Sentiment Index since the Financial Crisis lows had been one of slow improvement. But we are now at another post-recession high.

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