Consumer confidence fell to its lowest point of the year this month after a healthy pickup in March.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index pulled back 6.2 points to 95.2 in April after rising to 101.4 in March from 98.8 in February. The Present Situation Index dropped to 106.8 from 109.5 in March, while the Expectations Index suffered a sharper decline, dropping to 87.5 from 96 in the prior month.
Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, noted that the index “gave back all of the gain [from March] and more in April. This month’s retreat was prompted by a softening in current conditions, likely sparked by the recent lackluster performance of the labor market and apprehension about the short-term outlook.”
The Present Situation Index was down for the third consecutive month after beginning the year at 113.9. “Coupled with waning expectations, there is little to suggest that economic momentum will pick up in the months ahead,” she said.
Consumers’ overall assessment of general business conditions was mixed, with those viewing conditions as “good” dropping to 26.5 percent from 26.7 percent and those who rated those conditions as “bad” also dropping, to 18.2 percent from 19.4 percent.
But the outlook on jobs deteriorated, with those rating jobs as “plentiful” falling to 19.1 percent from 21 percent and those viewing work as “hard to get” rising to 26.4 percent from 25.5 percent. The percentage who expect jobs to become more available in the months ahead declined to 13.8 from 15.3, while those expecting fewer positions rose to 16.3 from 13.6.
Those expecting business conditions to worsen over the next six months rose to 9.4 percent from 8.1 percent a month ago, while those expecting improvement declined to 16 percent from 16.8 percent a month ago.
In its weekly assessment of chain-store sales, The Retail Economist LLC and Goldman Sachs reported that volume was up 2.5 percent in the seven days ended Saturday, while the sequential change from the prior week was a 0.8 percent increase. In the prior week, year-over-year sales were up 3.3 percent and sequential sales dipped 0.1 percent.
While office-supply stores did better than those in other sectors, apparel stores and wholesale clubs generated “weaker” results.
“Although weather-sensitive demand was hurt by the cooler and wet weather that prevailed during the past week, some retail segments managed to perform well,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist.
Discounters, dollar stores, drug stores and electronic stores performed better than average, while grocery, nonapparel specialty and furniture stores joined apparel stores with results below average levels.
Temperatures for the week were 2.9 degrees cooler than last year and 1.1 degrees cooler than their historical average, according to Weather Trends International, which noted the severe storm activity throughout the South helped make the week the wettest third week of April in more than 24 years. Colder temperatures and even occasional snow showers through the Northeast and East Coast also contributed to a lack of demand for warm-weather merchandise.
Gasoline prices were again up but, at $2.57, remained more than 30 percent below year-ago prices.