Consumer Confidence Still Sliding as Washington Negotiates

Consumer research firm Morning Consult reported Tuesday morning that its consumer sentiment index slid from 91.57 on March 23 to 90.55 on March 24. The index has remained below 100 for more than a week.

The one-day drop of 1.1% compounded the sharp declines of the past week. All the largest daily declines recorded have come in the past eight days.

Based on its daily surveys, this marks an overall year-to-date decline of 23.16%. Since February 23, the index has dropped by more than 24 points. For the eighth consecutive day, the consumer sentiment index has fallen to its lowest level since tracking began.

On Friday, the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March is set to be released. Economists are expecting a month-over-month decline from 95.9 to 91.3, a drop of nearly 4.8%. That report follows the Thursday announcement of new claims for jobless benefits, currently estimated at 787,500.

In an interview on CNBC Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that there is “real optimism” for agreement between the House and the Senate on a stimulus package to help individuals, small businesses and corporations weather the storm of lost jobs and revenue due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Trump administration reportedly has agreed to increased oversight over a massive loan program to help employers through the current crisis. What that oversight structure will be is undisclosed and, perhaps, even unknown.

What seems clear from the Morning Consult survey, however, is that consumers are paying close attention to the inaction in Washington. If the stimulus package does not supply individuals with the cash many will need to meet expenses while their jobs are suspended, the confidence level will plummet. The more complicated it is to get the money to Americans and the longer it takes also will affect consumer sentiment.