Consumers were in an upbeat mood at the start of August, sending the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index up 10.5 points.
The index now stands at 101.5, up from 91.0 in July. That’s compared with 1985 when the index was at 100. Both components of the index rose as well. The Present Situation Index jumped to 115.1 from last month’s 104.0. The Expectations, a measure of consumer sentiment six months out, increased to 92.5 from 82.3 in July.
Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said, “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was considerably more upbeat, primarily due to a more favorable appraisal of the labor market.”
Franco added that the “uncertainty expressed last month about the short-term outlook has dissipated and consumers are once again feeling optimistic about the near future. Income expectations, however, were little improved.”
The random sampling, conducted by Nielsen, has a cutoff date of Aug. 13 for preliminary results. That means the results reflect consumer sentiment before the stock market’s roller-coaster ride of the last few days.
As of early August, consumers who said business conditions are “good” decreased “marginally” to 23.2 percent from 23.4 percent. Those who said business conditions are “bad” fell “modestly” to 17.6 percent from 18.2 percent. The conference board data showed consumers were more positive about the job market, with respondents saying that jobs are “plentiful” increasing to 21.9 percent from 19.9 percent. Those who said jobs are “hard to get” declined to 21.9 percent from 27.4 percent.
On the short-term outlook, respondents who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose slightly to 15.8 percent from 15.3 percent. Those who expect conditions to worsen slipped to 8.3 percent from 10.3 percent. The jobs front indicated that consumers were positive about the future, with those anticipating more jobs rising to 14.6 percent from 13.7 percent. Those who said they expect fewer jobs fell to 13.6 percent from 19 percent.
In spite the expectations of an improved picture on the jobs front, most consumers didn’t expect much improvement on the income front. Those who expect their income to rise fell to 16.2 percent from 17 percent, while respondents who said they expected a decline fell to 10 percent from 11.3 percent.
While U.S. stocks showed sympathy pains in Monday’s trading session in reaction to the overseas markets and China’s devaluation of its currency, the markets in midmorning trading seemed to be shrugging off overseas worries and were gaining back some of the lost ground. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.9 percent to 16,175.03.
Depending on how the markets do over the next few weeks, it could be hard to gauge what the effect might be on September’s reading of the Consumer Confidence Index.
Lei Mao, assistant professor of finance at Warwick Business School in the U.K., said that while the plummets in stock markets are “very serious,” he expects a rebound because the markets have been “oversold.” Longer-term for the global economy, there might be issues because “new demand in China is becoming less likely,” and this could lead to the global economy slowing down, he said.
Mao, who said the yuan could devalue further this year, said, “We are seeing capital drain out of the country and companies with exposure to the Chinese market will suffer. Plus, Chinese companies will start exporting more to make up for the lack of domestic demand, facilitated by the weak [yuan], which will put pressure on many emerging markets.”