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Economy

Economic Data (USA)

Friday, October 29, 2021

Consumer Sentiment: Final Results for October 2021

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

Predicted: 71.5
  • Actual: 71.7
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  • Change from Previous Month: -1.511% (-1.1 points)
  • Change from 12 Months Previous: -12.347% (-10.1 points)

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  • Final ICS Reading for September 2021: 72.8

  • Final ICS Reading for October 2020: 81.8

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From today's report:

"...Consumer sentiment remained virtually unchanged from its mid month reading, gaining just 0.3 Index points, and just 0.1 Index points above the average in the past two months, and only 0.1 Index points below the April 2020 low. The positive impact of higher income expectations and the receding coronavirus has been offset by higher rates of inflation and falling confidence in government economic policies. Consumers not only anticipated the highest year-ahead inflation rate since 2008 in the October survey, consumers also expressed greater uncertainty about the year-ahead inflation rate than anytime in nearly forty years (see the chart below.) Note that this was the first major spike in inflation uncertainty recorded outside of a recession. Even uncertainty about the long-term inflation rate was the highest in more than a decade. Declining living standards due to inflation were spontaneously mentioned by one-of-every five households, concentrated among older and poorer households.

The patterns of consumers' reactions to recent rises in inflation represent the preconditions that can promote an escalating inflation rate during the year ahead. Consumers' recognition of high and rising prices is near universal, so too is their desire to reestablish spending for a more traditional holiday season. People understand that the origin of inflation has been in the upheavals in supply lines and labor markets. The acceptance of higher prices was caused by swollen savings due to the record
pandemic cash incentives as well as by Biden's new social support programs. The declining resistance to price hikes among buyers will be joined by less resistance among sellers to hiking prices that will be justified by higher materials and labor costs. These reactions promote an accelerating inflation rate until a tipping point is reached when consumers' incomes can no longer keep pace with escalating inflation. In the past inflationary era, one recession was insufficient to realign expectations; it required a series of boom-bust cycles, until the Fed's Volcker finally defeated inflation by raising interest rates to record levels..."


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CHART: Inflation Uncertainty as Estimated by the Range of the Middle 50% in Inflation Expectations

CHART: Inflation Uncertainty as Estimated
by the Range of the Middle 50%
in Inflation Expectations

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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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