U.S. Consumer Sentiment Hit Five-Month High Before Election

Consumer confidence rose to a five-month high in early November as Americans became more upbeat about the economy in the days before the presidential election concluded.

The University of Michigan said Friday that its preliminary index of sentiment for the month climbed to 91.6 from 87.2 in October. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey called for 87.9. The report also showed year-ahead inflation expectations rose the most since early 2015.

Job and income gains helped to boost assessments of their finances, underscoring forecasts of sustained consumer spending approaching the holiday-shopping season. At the same time, the survey reflects responses on or before Tuesday’s presidential election, and a “large majority” of respondents based their outlooks for the economy on expectations of a win by Hillary Clinton.

“Since those who expected a Clinton victory were more optimistic, the fear is that their expectations may be revised downward in a manner that extends beyond a temporary reaction to Clinton’s loss,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan consumer survey, said in a statement.

The report corroborates the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which increased for a third straight week through Nov. 6. Respondents in that survey registered the most upbeat views about the economy since mid-January.

Respondents this month expected the inflation rate in the next year will be 2.7 percent, compared with 2.4 percent in the October survey. It marked the biggest one-month gain since February 2015. Over the next five to 10 years, they also projected a 2.7 percent rate of price growth, after 2.4 percent in the prior month.

Curtin said on a Bloomberg conference call that while it’s possible price expectations will continue to increase, “it’s still not in the troublesome area.”

The University of Michigan’s preliminary survey includes 391 respondents from Oct. 28 through Election Day, Nov. 8. The final report for this month, released Nov. 23, will include additional interviews conducted through Nov. 20, offering a picture of how Donald Trump’s election as president has affected consumer attitudes.

“We have to take into consideration that people, even before they heard the announcement, did not think Trump’s policies were greatly damaging to the economy or their personal finances,” Curtin said on the conference call.

The preliminary report typically reflects about two-thirds of the survey’s total respondents in a given month.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists for the preliminary print ranged from 84 to 96.8. Friday’s figure compares with the average of 91 in the first 10 months of this year.

The current conditions index, which measures Americans’ perceptions of their personal finances, rose to 105.9 in November from a one-year low of 103.2 in the prior month.

Consumers’ assessments of their current financial situation rebounded, with 45 percent saying they improved, up from 41 percent in October. Nonetheless, they were less upbeat about their income prospects in the coming year.

The gauge of expectations six months from now climbed to 82.5 from a two-year low of 76.8 in October.

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