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Economy

Economic Data (USA)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Consumer Sentiment: Final Result for October 2019

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

Predicted: 96.0
Actual: 95.5

  • Change from Previous Month: +2.468% (+2.3 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: -3.144% (-3.1 points)

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  • Final ICS Reading for September 2019: 93.2

  • Final ICS Reading for October 2018: 98.6

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From today's report:

"...Sentiment was insignificantly below the mid month level, with the small loss spread over most components of the Index. The overall level of consumer confidence has remained quite favorable and largely unchanged during the past few years. The October level was nearly identical to the 2019 average (95.6) and only a few Index-points below the average since the start of 2017 (97.0). The focus of consumers has been on income and job growth, while largely ignoring other news. The most spontaneous references were to the negative impact of tariffs, which fell to 27% in October from last month's 36%; the impeachment inquiry totaled just 2% in October, less than the 5% who mentioned a negative impact from the GM strike. To be sure, the multiple sources of uncertainty will keep consumers focused on potential threats to their prevailing optimism, with the most critical being threats that could significantly diminish their job and income prospects.

The mismatched trends in personal finances and buying conditions have resulted in the lackluster pace of consumer spending throughout the expansion. Earlier in the expansion, dismal growth in household incomes and jobs were matched with record favorable references to prices and interest rates on home and vehicles, while in the later part of the expansion very favorable incomes and job prospects were matched with the fewest favorable references to prices and interest rates in decades-with those lows becoming the expected norm. On the plus side, the mismatch has kept consumer indebtedness (aside from education loans) at manageable levels, and positive finances have recently buoyed spending so as to ensure the continuation of the expansion..."

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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?"

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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.

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

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