Consumer Sentiment Shows Signs of Life in Time for Black Friday

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Following the better news earlier Wednesday morning from the U.S. Labor Department on new claims for unemployment benefits, the latest reading on consumer sentiment from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey adds a little more hope for retailers for a good Black Friday kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

The consumer sentiment index rose from a final October reading of 72.3 to 75.1 for November, well above the median forecast for a reading of 73.5. The rise in sentiment was uneven, however, with lower income households still cautious and more concerned about jobs than spending. A preliminary reading from earlier this month gave a reading of 72, so it appears that continuing low interest rates and a never-ending rise in equity prices are giving consumers a boost heading into the holidays.

The three major market indexes initially slipped from daily highs after the sentiment index was released, but began to recover shortly thereafter. The S&P 500 has gained the most, up more than 0.5%.

The consumer sentiment sub-index on current conditions fell from 89.9 in October to 88, but that was higher than the preliminary reading of 87.2 and lower than the expected reading of 89. On the expectations sub-index, sentiment rose from 62.5 in October to 66.8, slightly higher than the expected reading of 66.2.

The impact of the government shutdown appears to have subsided, but the survey’s results are mixed at best. The pressure on retailers is not likely to be relieved by the implications of this report.