Michigan Consumer Sentiment – Up Again

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index preliminary report for May came in at 72.4, an improvement over the April final of 69.8. The Briefing.com consensus expectation had been for 69.5 and Briefing.com’s own forecast was for 70.5. The rise in gasoline prices, often a drag on sentiment, apparently hasn’t taken a toll on the mood of the consumer on the past month.  The preliminary result for this month must be classified as an upside surprise. 

See the chart below for a long-term perspective on this widely watched index. Because the sentiment index has trended upward since its inception in 1978, I’ve added a linear regression to help understand the pattern of reversion to the trend. I’ve also highlighted recessions and included real GDP to help evaluate the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index as an indicator of the broader economy.

To put today’s report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is about 16% below the average reading (arithmetic mean), 15% below the geometric mean, and 17% below the regression line on the chart above. The current index level is at the 19th percentile of the 401 monthly data points in this series.

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 general pattern and trend are remarkably similar to the Michigan Index.

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).

Consumer and small business sentiment remains at or near levels associated with other recent recessions, but the trend has been one of general improvement.

Related Articles

Small Business Sentiment:  Gloom Continued in April  by Doug Short

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Continues Rebound  by Doug Short

Conference Board:  Consumer Confidence in Modest Recovery  by Doug Short and John Lounsbury

NFIB Small Business Optimism Falls for the Second Month  GEI News

Conference Board Confirms Consumer Relapse  by Doug Short

Small Business Sentiment Setback in March  by Doug Short

Is Ignorance Bliss?  A Look at Income Inequality  by Elliott Morss

Retail Sales and Credit Expansion Reports not Real  by Rick Davis 

Leading Economic Indicator:  Going Up Like a Rocket Ship  by Steven Hansen

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