Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Consumer Confidence at Three Year High

From Bloomberg:

Big upward revisions to an already accelerating consumer confidence report point to a pivot higher for the consumer sector. The Conference Board's index rose to 70.4 in February for the best reading in three years. January was revised more than four points higher to 64.8.

The assessment of the jobs market definitely improved. On the current assessment, a reading that offers an indication on the monthly employment report, fewer consumers in February said jobs are hard to get, at 45.7 percent vs January's 47.0 percent. On the outlook, substantially fewer consumers, at 15.4 percent vs January's 21.2 percent, see fewer jobs six months from now. In a partial offset, fewer consumers see more jobs ahead, 19.8 percent vs January's 20.8 percent.

Upward revisions are especially striking in the assessment of future income which before this report had been in unprecedented inversion, that is more saw their income decreasing than increasing. Not anymore as 17.3 percent of the roughly 3,000 initial sample see their income improving vs 13.8 percent seeing a decrease. Revisions now show the inversion reversing back in December.

The prospect of future income is a critical assessment when making decisions on discretionary purchases. Revisions now show big gains for buying plans especially for cars and appliances. Home buying plans are still depressed but a little less depressed.

The number is still pretty low by historical standards, so I'd be cautious to read too much into this move. In addition, with gas prices going up (and today's price spike) I think this number will come under strong downward pressure in the near future.