Consumer Confidence Rapidly Peels Away From 17-Year Highs

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The Conference Board has released its December reading on consumer confidence. After coming in at a rather strong preliminary 128.6 in November, the confidence index fell to 122.1 in December. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was December 15.

Dow Jones was calling for a reading of 128.2 and Bloomberg expected the index to drop to 128.0. While such a disappointing reading might look bad here, the reality is that November’s Confidence Index was a 17-year high.

The Conference Board showed that the expectations component was what did in the report. Its Present Situation Index actually rose to 156.6 from 154.9, while the Expectations Index declined from 111.0 last month to 99.1 this month.

Other key metrics inside the readings were mixed. Consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions was slightly more positive in December. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was mixed, and the consumer outlook for the job market was also less upbeat than what had been seen in November.

The breakdown of statistical readings was shown as follows:

  • The percentage saying business conditions are “good” increased marginally from 35.0 percent to 35.2 percent.
  • The percentage saying business conditions are “bad” decreased marginally, from 12.3 percent to 12.1 percent.
  • Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 37.5 percent to 35.7 percent.
  • Those claiming jobs are “hard to get” also decreased, from 16.8 percent to 15.2 percent (a 16-year low).
  • The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 21.3 percent to 18.4 percent.
  • Those anticipating fewer jobs rose from 12.1 percent to 16.3 percent.
  • The percentage of consumers expecting an improvement in short-term income prospects increased from 20.3 percent to 22.3 percent.
  • The proportion expecting a decrease short-term income prospects rose from 7.6 percent to 8.9 percent.

Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said:

Consumer confidence retreated in December after reaching a 17-year high in November. The decline in confidence was fueled by a somewhat less optimistic outlook for business and job prospects in the coming months. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions, however, improved moderately. Despite the decline in confidence, consumers’ expectations remain at historically strong levels, suggesting economic growth will continue well into 2018.