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Economic Data (USA)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Consumer Sentiment: Final Result for May 2019

The University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) - Final Result for May 2019 was released today:

Predicted: 101.5
Actual: 100.0

  • Change from Previous Month: +2.881 % (+2.8 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: +2.041 % (+2.0 points)


  • Final ICS Reading from April 2019: 97.2

  • Final ICS Reading from May 2018: 98.0


From today's report:

"...Although consumer sentiment remained at very favorable levels, confidence significantly eroded in the last two weeks of May. The late-month decline was due to unfavorable references to tariffs, spontaneously mentioned by 35% of all consumers in the last two weeks of May, up from 16% in the first half of May and 15% in April and equal to the peak recorded last July in response to the initial imposition of tariffs. The year-ahead inflation expectations jumped to 2.9% in May up from last month’s 2.5%. Year-ahead inflation expectations among those who unfavorably mentioned tariffs was 0.5 percentage points higher than those who made no references to tariffs. Importantly, the gain in inflation expectations was recorded prior to the actual increases in consumer prices due to the most recent hike in tariffs. While higher inflation expectations modestly reduced real income expectations, the largest impact was on buying conditions for appliances and other large household durables, which fell to their lowest level in four years.

The combination of higher inflation and a slower pace of spending provide conflicting signals for monetary policy. The divergence will further widen if, as is likely, the trade war escalates. Will the Fed risk higher inflation by lowering interest rates, or risk higher unemployment by raising interest rates? This dilemma comes at a time when consumers have expressed the highest level of confidence since 2002 in the government’s ability to keep both inflation and unemployment at reasonably low levels. Consumers now judge economic security more important than a faster pace of growth in their personal incomes or household wealth. ..."


The ICS is derived from the following five survey questions:

  1. "We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?"

  2. "Now looking ahead, do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be better off financially, or worse off, or just about the same as now?"

  3. "Now turning to business conditions in the country as a whole, do you think that during the next twelve months we'll have good times financially, or bad times, or what?"

  4. "Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely: that in the country as a whole we'll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, or that we will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what?"

  5. "About the big things people buy for their homes, such as furniture, a refrigerator, stove, television, and things like that. Generally speaking, do you think now is a good or bad time for people to buy major household items?"



The ICS uses a 1966 baseline, i.e. for 1966, the ICS = 100. So any number that is below the 1966 baseline of 100 means that the folks who were polled recently aren't as optimistic about the U.S. economy as the sample that was polled back in 1966.

The ICS is similar to the Consumer Confidence Index in that they both measure consumer attitudes and offer valuable insight into consumer spending.


The "predicted" figure is what economists were expecting, while the "actual" is the true or real figure.



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