Monday, 24 of September of 2018

Economics. Explained.  

Consumer Sentiment

September 14, 2018

The final estimate for consumer sentiment for September jumped 4.6 points to 100.8 after having declined 1.7 points in July.   The September level was 0.6 point lower than March’s level of 101.4 was the highest level of sentiment since January 2004.  Thus, sentiment remains at a very lofty level.

Richard Curtin, the chief economist for the Surveys of Consumers, said, “Consumer sentiment posted a robust rise in early September, reaching 100.8, the second highest level since 2004-only behind the March 2018 reading of 101.4. Importantly, the gains were widespread across all major socioeconomic subgroups. The Expectations Index reached its highest level since July 2004, largely due to more favorable prospects for jobs and incomes. Despite a lessening of expected gains in nominal incomes in September, inflation expectations also declined, acting to offset concerns about declining living standards. Consumers anticipated continued growth in the economy that would produce more jobs and an even lower unemployment rate during the year ahead. While consumers were somewhat more likely to anticipate that the economic expansion would continue uninterrupted over the next five years, nearly as many expected another downturn sometime in the next five years. The largest problem cited on the economic horizon involved the anticipated negative impact from tariffs.”

Given the tax cuts we expect GDP growth to climb from 2.5% in 2017 to 3.1% in 2018.  We expect the economic speed limit to be raised from 1.8% to 2.8% within a few years.  That will accelerate growth in our standard of living.  We expect worker compensation to increase 3.5% in 2018 vs. 1.8% last year. The core inflation rate (excluding the volatile food and energy components) rose 1.8% in 2017 but should climb by 2.3% in 2018.  Such a scenario would keep the Fed on track for the very gradual increases in interest rates that it has noted previously.  Specifically, we expect the funds rate to be 2.2% by the end of 2018.

The August increase was attributable to both the expectations and current conditions components.

Consumer expectations for six months jumped 4.0 points from  87.1 to 91.1.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions jumped 5.8 points from 110.3 to 116.1.

Trends in the Conference Board measure of consumer confidence and the University of Michigan series on sentiment move in tandem, but there are often month-to-month fluctuations.  Both series remain at levels that are consistent with steady growth in consumer spending at a reasonable clip of about 2.5% in 2018.

Stephen Slifer

NumberNomics

Charleston, SC


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