Consumer Confidence Declines Again in November
The Latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released this morning based on data collected through November 15. The 70.4 reading was below the 72.9 forecast of Investing.com and 2.0 below the October 72.4 (previously reported at 71.2). The index is at its lowest level since April.
Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board report.
Said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board: "Consumer confidence declined moderately in November after sharply declining in October. Sentiment regarding current conditions was mixed, with consumers saying the job market had strengthened, while economic conditions had slowed. However, these sentiments did not carry over into the short-term outlook. When looking ahead six months, consumers expressed greater concern about future job and earning prospects, but remain neutral about economic conditions. All in all, with such uncertainly prevailing, this could be a challenging holiday season for retailers."
Consumers' assessment of overall current conditions decreased slightly. Those claiming business conditions are "good" edged up to 19.9 percent from 19.5 percent, while those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 25.2 percent from 23.0 percent. Consumers' appraisal of the job market was little changed. Those saying jobs are "plentiful" ticked up to 11.8 percent from 11.6 percent, while those saying jobs are "hard to get" decreased slightly to 34.0 percent from 34.9 percent.
Consumers' expectations, which had decreased sharply in October, declined further in November. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased slightly to 16.6 percent from 16.0 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 16.8 percent from 17.5 percent. However, consumers' outlook for the labor market was more pessimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead fell to 12.7 percent from 16.0 percent, but those anticipating fewer jobs also decreased to 21.7 percent from 22.6 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase declined to 14.9 percent from 15.7 percent. Those expecting a decrease in their incomes rose slightly to 15.9 percent from 15.5 percent. [press release]
Putting the Latest Number in Context
Let's take a step back and put Lynn Franco's interpretation in a larger perspective. The table here shows the average consumer confidence levels for each of the five recessions during the history of this monthly data series, which dates from June 1977. The latest number is a mere 1.0 point above the recession mindset.
The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end I have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The exponential regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope clearly resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a far more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference. Today's reading of 70.4 is 10.1% below the current regression level of 78.4.
On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 24.4 percentile of all the monthly readings since the start of the monthly data series in June 1977 and at the 19.3 percentile of non-recessionary months.
For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see my post on the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.
And finally, let's take a look at the correlation between consumer confidence and small business sentiment, the latter by way of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index. As the chart illustrates, the two have tracked one another fairly closely since the onset of the Financial Crisis.
The NFIB index has been less volatile than the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index.