University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment

The Consumer Sentiment Index surveys consumers monthly using about 50 questions that track different aspects of their attitudes and expectations around personal finances, business conditions, and buying conditions. In addition to this index, the group also publishes the Index of Consumer Expectations and the Index of Current Economic Conditions.

Published twice a month – one Preliminary and one Final reading – this is an important indicator to watch as consumer attitudes greatly impact consumer spending which makes up over 70% of GDP.

The September Final reading for the Consumer Sentiment Index came in at 68.1, down 2.0% from the August Final reading. The Current Economic Conditions figure fell 5.7% to 71.4 and the Index of Consumer Expectations improved by 0.8% to 66.0.

The Index of Consumer Expectations increased slightly as a result of a “modest” improvement in expected business conditions, while expectations of consumers’ future personal finances decreased marginally. Current Economic Conditions, or how consumers feel about their current finances and buying plans, have been on a general uptrend since mid-2022 but has seen declines over the last few months, implying economic uncertainty. Despite the overall increases, Consumer Sentiment is still at levels well below its historical average.

Here’s an excerpt from the latest report:

“Sentiment this month was characterized by divergent movements across index components and across demographic groups with little net change from last month. Notably, though, both short-run and long-run expectations for economic conditions improved modestly this month, though on nConsumer sentiment confirmed its early-month reading and was little changed this month, slipping a mere 1.4 index points from August and remaining 16% higher than a year ago. A small decline in consumer expectations over their personal finances was offset by a modest improvement in expected business conditions. Consumers are understandably unsure about the trajectory of the economy given multiple sources of uncertainty, for example over the possible shutdown of the federal government and labor disputes in the auto industry. Until more information emerges about these developments, though, consumers have reserved judgement on whether economic conditions have materially changed from the past few consumers remain relatively tentative about the trajectory of the economy.”

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