United States: Consumer confidence falls to near two-year low in June on pessimistic shift in expectations
The Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence index sharply fell from a revised 131.3 in May (previously reported: 134.1) to 121.5 in June, wildly missing market expectations of 132.0. The index nevertheless remains above the 100-point threshold that separates consumer optimism from pessimism.
Losses in the headline index this month were again broad-based, with both the present situation and the expectations indexes steeply declining, with the latter falling below the 100-point threshold, indicating consumers are now somewhat pessimistic about the short-term outlook. Moreover, the report indicates that the escalation of tariffs and trade tensions with China in May—the effects of which do not seem to have been captured in the May consumer confidence report—had a large impact on forward-looking sentiment.
A less upbeat assessment of labor market conditions was the key factor behind the fall in the present situation index, with the labor differential—the difference between the percentage of respondents who state that jobs are plentiful and those who say that jobs are hard to get—decreasing from 33.5 to just 27.6, largely because of a sharp upswing in the proportion of respondents indicating jobs are hard to get. In addition, consumers’ optimism regarding current business conditions also dipped slightly.
Regarding consumers’ expectations over the next six months, the shift to pessimism was due largely to a sharp deterioration of perceptions of future business conditions, again with a large increase in the percentage of respondents who believed they will worsen in coming months. In addition, their assessment of the labor market outlook as well as their own income prospects also deteriorated.
Commenting on this month’s reading, Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, noted:
“The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence. Although the Index remains at a high level, continued uncertainty could result in further volatility in the Index and, at some point, could even begin to diminish consumers’ confidence in the expansion.”