The consumer confidence index from The Conference Board fell to 122.1 this month, a much larger decline than anticipated and the worst headline reading since September. Essentially all of the weakness in December occurred in the forward-looking confidence gauges, while consumers' assessment of current conditions actually improved moderately. Although disappointing, it is worth remembering that December’s large pullback follows the prior month's jump to a 17-year high, and the index still sits well above pre-election levels.
A similar pattern can be seen in the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, suggesting that Americans’ overall level of exuberance is simply returning to more rational levels that are still supportive of continued economic growth. Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin added that “Most consumers will know more about the revised tax code when the new paycheck withholding amounts take effect in early 2018. While the mostly small gains in take-home pay may not spark an uptick in optimism, those gains would act to dampen any renewed pessimism. Overall, the data indicate that real personal consumption expenditures will expand by 2.6% in 2018.”
Sources: Econoday, UoM, ZH, Advisor Perspectives, FRBSLPost author: Charles Couch