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Michigan Consumer Sentiment: Growth in Consumer Spending 3% in 2015

June 26, 2015

by Doug Short

The University of Michigan final Consumer Sentiment for June came in at 96.1, a small increase from the 94.6 June preliminary reading but still below the interim high of 98.1 in January. Investing.com had forecast 94.6 for the June final. The latest survey findings were a welcome improvement following last month's interim low.

Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin makes the following comments:

Consumers voiced in the first half of 2015 the largest and most sustained increase in economic optimism since 2004. Just as important, that same record was set by households in the top third of the income distribution as well as by the middle third and those in the bottom third of the income distribution. Moreover, the recent surveys recorded those same records when consumers were asked to evaluate prospects for the national economy, their personal finances, and buying conditions. Consumer spending will remain the driving force of economic growth in 2015. Overall, the data indicate growth in consumer spending of 3.0% in 2015. [More...]

See the chart below for a long-term perspective on this widely watched indicator. Recessions and real GDP are included to help us evaluate the correlation between the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the broader economy.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment

To put today's report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is now 13 percent above the average reading (arithmetic mean) and 14 percent above the geometric mean. The current index level is at the 83th percentile of the 450 monthly data points in this series.

The Michigan average since its inception is 85.2. During non-recessionary years the average is 87.5. The average during the five recessions is 69.3. So the latest sentiment number puts us 26.8 points above the average recession mindset and 8.6 points above the non-recession average.

Note that this indicator is somewhat volatile, with a 3.1 point absolute average monthly change. The latest data point was a 5.4 point change from the previous month. For a visual sense of the volatility, here is a chart with the monthly data and a three-month moving average.

3-Month Moving Average

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.

Consumer Confidence

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).

NFIB Optimism

The general trend in the Michigan Sentiment Index since the Financial Crisis lows had been one of slow improvement. But the latest survey findings were a welcome bounce after last month's interim low.