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Economy

Economic Data (USA)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Consumer Sentiment: Final Results for November 2020

The University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) - Final Results for November 2020 was released today:

Predicted: 75.0
  • Actual: 76.9
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  • Change from Previous Month: -5.99% (-4.9 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: -20.558% (-19.9 points)

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  • Final ICS Reading for October 2020: 81.8

  • Final ICS Reading for November 2019: 96.8

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From today's report:

"...Consumer sentiment was unchanged in late November -- a difference of just 0.1 points from mid-month -- although there was a significant decline in the Expectations component which was offset by more favorable assessments of current economic conditions. Importantly, the November data were less optimistic than last month due to the resurgence in COVID-19 infections and deaths as well as partisan shifts due to the outcome of the presidential election. For the first time since Trump entered office, Democrats rather than Republicans held a more optimistic economic outlook.

The steep rise in
COVID-19 infections had a greater impact on Democrats as 59% of Democrats reported that the coronavirus had changed their lives to a great extent compared with just 36% among Republicans. In the months ahead, if infections and deaths rise as anticipated, further declines in optimism are likely. The anticipated declines, however, will be tempered by the approval of several vaccines by the end of the year. The approval of vaccines will heighten concerns about vaccination priorities, especially when accompanied by the expected increase in deaths in the next several months.

These events are likely to promote more closures and stay-at-home orders in addition to mandatory masks and social distancing. Widespread closures would incur a heavy toll on the entire economy and cause escalating hardships among some households. A delay in federal aid until next year would allow great harm and permanent damage to occur to many firms, local governments, and households. ..."

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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 those 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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