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Economy

Economic Data (USA)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Consumer Sentiment: Final Results for August 2021

The University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) - Final Results for August 2021 was released today:

Predicted: 70.0
  • Actual: 70.3
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  • Change from Previous Month: -13.424% (-10.9 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: -5.128% (-3.8 points)

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  • Final ICS Reading for July 2021: 81.2

  • Final ICS Reading for August 2020: 74.1

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From today's report:

"...There was no lessening in late August in the extent of the collapse in consumer sentiment recorded in the first half of the month. The Consumer Sentiment Index fell by 13.4% from July, recording the least favorable economic prospects in more than a decade. The Sentiment Index has only recorded larger losses in six other monthly surveys since 1978. The losses were especially large in the Expectations Index, and widespread across all demographic groups, regions, and the outlook for the economy. Personal financial prospects continued to worsen due to smaller income gains amid higher inflationary trends. Consumers' extreme reactions were due to the surging Delta variant, higher inflation, slower wage growth, and smaller declines in unemployment. The extraordinary falloff in sentiment also reflects an emotional response, from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end and lives could return to normal.

The August collapse of confidence does not imply an imminent downturn in the economy. There was a similar episode which occurred in September 2005, with comparable declines in the Sentiment Index (13.7% in 2005 vs. 13.4% in 2021). The cause of the steep falloff in 2005 was the devastation from hurricane Katrina and rising energy prices. The impact of 9/11 was another non-economic event that had an immediate impact on consumers' expectations and emotions. Although economic expectations began to improve by year-end, the emotional impact on spending patterns lasted for a much longer time. That same type of persistent impact on spending patterns is now likely to reoccur..."


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CHART: Personal Financial Prospects for The Year Ahead

CHART: Personal Financial Prospects
for The Year Ahead

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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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