Volatile Consumer Sentiment Jumps to Near 2-Year High

Paul Ausick

The Morning Consult index of consumer sentiment recorded its highest reading since early 2018 last week. As of February 9, the consumer index score was 115.5, up from 113.9 at the end of the prior week.

The index is based on the firm’s daily survey of some 7,500 U.S. adults and is higher than it was at this time last year. The 52-week low of 107.0 was posted on August 26, 2019, and the 52-week high was seen last week.

The gap between the index’s component scores widened slightly in the week ending February 9, with the future expectations score rising by 1.8 points to 116.3 and the current conditions score rising by 1.2 points to 114.2.

According to Morning Consult, “U.S. consumers remain largely unfazed by the increasing severity of the coronavirus outbreak — even as economists at the Federal Reserve assess the downside risk to the economy. Consumers’ concerns regarding the economic impact of the coronavirus remain primarily focused outside of the United States, even as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has increased.”

Morning Consult asks the same questions of its survey respondents as does the University of Michigan’s twice-monthly Survey of Consumers. The difference is in the number and method of the survey. The Michigan sentiment index is based on 600 telephone interviews with U.S. adults while Morning Consult’s results are based on an ongoing survey comprising 7,500 daily interviews and 210,000 monthly interviews, all conducted online.

The survey breaks down the data it collects by some key demographic groups. Here are some of the results of that breakdown.

Households with income of less than $50,000 annually posted an overall sentiment score of 109.4 last week, up 1.3 points from the previous week. Among households with income between $150,000 and $200,000, the overall score rose by 1.3 points, while overall sentiment among households with incomes between $200,000 and $250,000 jumped by 5.5 index points to post a score of 130.6. Households with incomes over $250,000 saw an increase of 0.4 index points to 1330.2.

By industry sector, Americans employed in the professional and business services sector posted a gain of 3.6 points to 121.8, while the educational services sector jumped 4.0 points to 117.0. Americans employed in the transportation sector posted a drop of 4.5 points to 122.6.

Sentiment in the agriculture industry increased last week, rising by 4.8 points to boost the industry’s index reading to 128.6.

Top executives in businesses of all sizes posted a 0.4-point gain in overall sentiment last week, raising the index score to 125.1. Executives from businesses with 21 to 100 employees registered a 9.0-point rise in overall sentiment, posting an index score of 135.3, while top executives of companies with more than 100 employees posted a decrease of 2.4 points to lower their index score to 152.0.

Looking at responses to questions about future economic conditions, top executives of companies with more than 100 employees posted an index score of 152.9, down by 1.0 points week over week. At companies with one to five employees, executives lowered the score by 0.5 points to 122.1.

Company executives’ opinion of current economic conditions dipped by 0.5 points last week, with the index score slipping to 121.6. CEOs of companies with more than 101 employees were the least optimistic, dropping their index score by 4.3 points to 150.7.

On Friday, the preliminary February University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment is expected to show a slight dip to 99.7 from a final January reading of 99.8.

Perhaps a review of 56 amazing facts about America today could help prompt some more optimism in consumers.