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posted on 31 January 2017

January 2017 Conference Board Consumer Confidence Retreats

Written by Doug Short / Jill Mislinski

The latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released this morning based on data collected through January 19. The headline number of 111.8 was a decrease from the final reading of 113.3 for December, a downward revision from 113.7. Today's number was below the Investing.com consensus of 113.0.

Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board press release.

"Consumer confidence decreased in January, after reaching a 15-year high in December (Aug. 2001, 114.0)," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "The decline in confidence was driven solely by a less optimistic outlook for business conditions, jobs, and especially consumers' income prospects. Consumers' assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, improved in January. Despite the retreat in confidence, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue to expand in the coming months."

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.

Consumer Confidence

On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 83rd percentile of all the monthly data points since June 1977, down from the 84th percentile the previous month.

For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see the most recent Reuters/University of MichiganConsumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.

Consumer Sentiment

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, although a spread appeared in the second half of 2015 and continued into 2016.



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