U.S. Consumer Confidence Eases From More Than 15-Year High

Consumer confidence retreated in January from a more than 15-year high as Americans tempered their economic expectations and waited for President Donald Trump and lawmakers to deliver on promises to boost employment and jump-start growth, data from the New York-based Conference Board showed Tuesday.

Key Points

  • Confidence index fell to 111.8 (forecast was 112.8) from a revised 113.3 in December that was the highest since August 2001
  • Measure of consumer expectations for the next six months in the economy dropped to 99.8 from 106.4, marking the biggest decline since November 2015
  • Present conditions gauge advanced to 129.7 from 123.5
  • Expectations about business conditions, employment and incomes for the next six months all lost ground

Big Picture

Despite the dip in January, American households remain upbeat as the Trump administration and Congress consider fiscal policy aimed at stoking growth. Respondents had more favorable views of current economic and labor-market conditions, though they anticipate higher inflation and interest rates over the coming year. Optimism does little for the economy unless it translates into faster consumer spending, which cooled in the fourth quarter.

Economist’s Takeaway

“Despite the retreat in confidence, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue to expand in the coming months,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

The Details

  • The labor differential, measuring the difference between those saying jobs are currently plentiful and those who say they’re hard to get, increased to 5.9 points from 3.3 points
  • Fewer Americans reported plans to purchase new cars, previously owned homes and major appliances
  • Consumers were less optimistic about job availability, as 19.8 percent said more jobs will be available in six months, compared with 21.7 percent in December
  • Share of households who expect their incomes to rise in next six months fell to 18 percent from 21.5 percent
  • 23.1 percent of households said they expect business conditions to improve in the next six months, down from 24.7 percent
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