The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index which had increased in September, declined in October. The Index now stands at 98.6 (1985=100), down from 103.5 in September. The market expected (from Bloomberg) this index to come in between 98.6 to 106.5 (consensus 101.0).
Analyst Opinion of Conference Board Consumer Confidence
Confidence this month slipped back into mid-range of values seen in the last year. Survey was good last month, and mediocre this month. Maybe people are weary about the election.
Note that this data is considered preliminary, and the cutoff for these results was 13 October 2016.
Here is an excerpt from The Conference Board:
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had increased in September, declined in October. The Index now stands at 98.6 (1985=100), down from 103.5 in September. The Present Situation Index decreased from 127.9 to 120.6, while the Expectations Index declined from 87.2 last month to 83.9.
"Consumer confidence retreated in October, after back-to-back monthly gains," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers' assessment of current business and employment conditions softened, while optimism regarding the short-term outlook retreated somewhat. However, consumers' expectations regarding their income prospects in the coming months were relatively unchanged. Overall, sentiment is that the economy will continue to expand in the near-term, but at a moderate pace."
Consumers' appraisal of current conditions softened in October. Those saying business conditions are "good" decreased moderately from 27.7 percent to 26.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" increased from 15.8 percent to 17.7 percent. Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also less positive than last month. Those stating jobs are "plentiful" decreased from 27.6 percent to 24.3 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" declined marginally from 22.3 percent to 22.1 percent.
Consumers' optimism regarding the short-term outlook was somewhat less favorable in October. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased from 17.0 percent to 16.0 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen increased from 10.8 percent to 12.2 percent.
Consumers' outlook for the labor market was also less optimistic than in September. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 15.7 percent to 13.1 percent. However, those anticipating fewer jobs declined from 18.1 percent to 17.0 percent. The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase was unchanged at 17.5 percent, while the proportion expecting a decline decreased from 10.4 percent to 9.8 percent.
Putting the Latest Number in Context
The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference.
On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 58th percentile of all the monthly data points since June 1977, up from the 69th percentile the previous month.
For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.
And finally, let's take a look at the correlation between consumer confidence and small business sentiment, the latter by way of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index. As the chart illustrates, the two have tracked one another fairly closely since the onset of the Financial Crisis.
Caveats in Using the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index
According to Bloomberg, the following caveat is provided when reviewing this series:
The underlying series for "planned purchases" (autos, homes, and major appliances) and "vacation intentions" showed larger increases in November 2010 levels, primarily due to sample design differences. These level shifts will be treated as breaks, and there will be no historial revisions. Neither series is included in or has any impact on the Consumer Confidence Index.The switch to the Census X-12 seasonal adjustment program produced only minor differences for both levels and month-to-month changes. As a result, The Conference Board did not find it necessary to undertake a full historical revision of the CCI time series based on the seasonal adjustment method. The restated data for November 2010, December 2010 and January 2011 (preliminary data) are based on the prior seasonal adjustment method. This index is an average of responses to the following questions: 1. Respondents appraisal of current business conditions. 2. Respondents expectations regarding business conditions six months hence. 3. Respondents appraisal of the current employment conditions. 4. Respondents expectations regarding employment conditions six months hence. 5. Respondents expectations regarding their total family income six months hence. For each of the 5 questions, there are three response options: Postive, Negative and Neutral. The response proportions to each question are seasonally adjusted. For each of the five question (above), the POSITIVE figure is divided by the sum of the POSITIVE and NEGATIVE to yield a proportion, which we call the 'RELATIVE' value. For each question, the average RELATIVE for the calendar year 1985 is then used as a benchmark to yield the INDEX value for that question. From 1967 to mid 1977 the CCI was bi-monthly.
This is a survey based on a probability-design random sample - conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen. Surveys are a quantification of opinion rather than facts and data.
Observers of consumer sentiment polls should be aware they are imperfect quantifications of opinion. The question arises whether they are a rear view window or a forward looking indicator - or possibly a little of each. There is little question, however, that poor consumer sentiment corresponds to poor economic performance. Econintersect believes that consumer sentiment is mostly a coincident or lagging economic indicator.
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