Dim Expectations Send U.S. Consumer Sentiment to Nine-Month Low

Weaker expectations about personal finances helped drive U.S. consumer optimism this month to the lowest level since October, University of Michigan preliminary survey data showed Friday.

Highlights of Michigan Sentiment (July, preliminary)

  • Preliminary sentiment index fell to 93.1 (forecast was 95) from 95.1 in June
  • Expectations measure dropped to 80.2, also the weakest since October, from 83.9 the prior month
  • Current conditions gauge, which measures Americans’ perceptions of their personal finances, increased to 113.2, matching the highest since July 2005, from 112.5 in the prior month

Key Takeaways

While 51 percent of respondents, the largest share in almost 17 years, reported that their finances improved in July, a gauge of expectations about their financial well-being slumped by 10 points to 122. That was the weakest since August of last year.

The share that expected improved finances fell to 33 percent from a decade high of 42 percent in June. The entire retreat was among respondents with incomes in the bottom two-thirds.

The decline in main gauge of sentiment shows confidence is the lowest since President Donald Trump was elected. The decrease in expectations was concentrated among Republicans, underscoring the frustrations voters have with policy makers in Washington and the uphill path for tax and health-care policy.

Economist Views

“The declines recorded are now consistent with just above 2 percent GDP growth in 2017,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan consumer survey, said in a statement.

“Overall, the recent data follow the same pattern repeatedly recorded around past cyclical peaks: expectations start to post significant declines while assessments of current economic conditions continue to reach new peaks. To be sure, the data do not suggest an impending recession,” he said.

Other Details

  • Most of the weakness in five-year outlook was recorded among Republicans (22 percent, up from 14 percent in February) and political independents (51 percent versus 37 percent)
  • Consumers saw inflation rate in the next year at 2.7 percent, compared with 2.6 percent in the prior month
  • Inflation rate over next five to 10 years seen at 2.6 percent after 2.5 percent in June
  • Favorable vehicle-buying attitudes fell in July to the lowest since October

— With assistance by Kristy Scheuble

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