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posted on 10 November 2017

Preliminary November 2017 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Slightly Declines

by Jill Mislinski, Advisor Perspectives/dshort.com

The University of Michigan Preliminary Consumer Sentiment for November came in at 97.8, down 2.9 from the October Final reading of 100.7. Investing.com had forecast 100.7.

Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, makes the following comments:

Consumer sentiment declined slightly in early November due to widespread losses across current and expected economic conditions. The losses were quite small as the Sentiment Index remained at its second highest level since January. Overall, the Sentiment Index has remained trendless since the start of the year, varying by less that 4.0 Index-points around its 2017 average of 96.8. Consumers (and policy makers) have four key concerns: prospective trends in jobs, wages, inflation, and interest rates. An improving labor market was spontaneously mentioned by a record number of consumers in early November, and anticipated wage gains recorded their highest two-month level in a decade. These favorable trends were countered by a slight rise in year-ahead inflation expectations and a growing consensus that interest rates will increase during the year ahead. Needless to say, the preliminary November data is hardly sufficient to indicate that the persistent strength in the labor market has finally prompted higher inflation. Moreover, consumers anticipated that the size of the changes would be rather small, leaving economic conditions largely unchanged at favorable levels. While the expected Fed rate hikes seem to be the right preemptive action, the critical issue is whether income gains will be sufficient to outweigh rate hikes in home and vehicle purchase decisions. Overall, the data are consistent with a 2.7% rise in personal consumption spending in 2018.

See the chart below for a long-term perspective on this widely watched indicator. Recessions and real GDP are included to help us evaluate the correlation between the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the broader economy.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment

To put today's report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is 14.1 percent above the average reading (arithmetic mean) and 15.4 percent above the geometric mean. The current index level is at the 88th percentile of the 479 monthly data points in this series.

The Michigan average since its inception is 85.6. During non-recessionary years the average is 87.8. The average during the five recessions is 69.3. So the latest sentiment number puts us 28.5 points above the average recession mindset and 9.9 points above the non-recession average.

Note that this indicator is somewhat volatile, with a 3.0 point absolute average monthly change. The latest data point saw a 2.9 percent change from the previous month. For a visual sense of the volatility, here is a chart with the monthly data and a three-month moving average.

3-Month Moving Average

For the sake of comparison, here is a chart of the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index (monthly update here). The Conference Board Index is the more volatile of the two, but the broad pattern and general trends have been remarkably similar to the Michigan Index.

Consumer Confidence

And finally, the prevailing mood of the Michigan survey is also similar to the mood of small business owners, as captured by the NFIB Business Optimism Index (monthly update here).

NFIB Optimism

The general trend in the Michigan Sentiment Index since the Financial Crisis lows has been one of slow improvement.The survey findings since December 2015 saw gradual decline followed by a bounceback later in the year.


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