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Economy

Economic Data (USA)

Friday, August 13, 2021

Consumer Sentiment: Preliminary Results for August 2021

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

Predicted: 80.0
  • Actual: 70.2
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  • Change from Previous Month: -13.547% (-11.0 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: -5.263% (-3.9 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:

"...Consumers reported a stunning loss of confidence in the first half of August. The Consumer Sentiment Index fell by 13.5% from July, to a level that was just below the April 2020 low of 71.8. Over the past half century, the Sentiment Index has only recorded larger losses in six other surveys, all connected to sudden negative changes in the economy: the only larger declines in the Sentiment Index occurred during the economy's shutdown in April 2020 (-19.4%) and at the depths of the Great Recession in October 2008 (-18.1%).
The losses in early August were widespread across income, age, and education subgroups and observed across all regions. Moreover, the loses covered all aspects of the economy, from personal finances to prospects for the economy, including inflation and unemployment.
There is little doubt that the pandemic's resurgence due to the Delta variant has been met with a mixture of reason and emotion. Consumers have correctly reasoned that the economy's performance will be diminished over the next several months, but the extraordinary surge in negative economic assessments also reflects an emotional response, mainly from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end. 
In the months ahead, it is likely that consumers will again voice more reasonable expectations, and with control of the Delta variant, shift toward outright optimism. Consumers' reaction to Delta's modestly higher precautionary measures indicates the difficulty of producing optimal policy responses..."


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CHART: Consumer Sentiment Attractive Prices vs Job Income Certainty

CHART: Consumer Sentiment
Attractive Prices vs Job Income Certainty

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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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