Michigan Consumer Sentiment: February Preliminary Optimistic

The University of Michigan Preliminary Consumer Sentiment for February came in at 95.5, up 4.3 from the January Final reading. Investing.com had forecast 93.3.

Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, makes the following comments:

The early February gains reflect the end of the partial government shutdown as well as a more fundamental shift in consumer expectations due to the Fed's pause in raising interest rates. The lingering impact of the shutdown was responsible for some of the negative economic evaluations, and, at the time that these interviews were conducted, uncertainty about whether a second shutdown would occur continued to have a slight depressing impact on confidence. Although the majority of consumers expected some additional rate hikes during the year ahead, that proportion has shrunk to the smallest level in the past two years. Perhaps more importantly, consumers' long term inflation expectations fell to the lowest level recorded in the past half century. While nominal income expectations remained at modest levels, consumers more frequently expected gains in their inflation-adjusted incomes in early February than at any other time in more than fifteen years (see the chart). The data indicate that personal consumption expenditures will remain the strongest sector in the national economy in 2019--up by 2.7% compared with a GDP gain of 2.2%. The data suggest that the Fed will find it even harder to justify another rate hike given the record low inflation expectations; the data will also add to the debate about the evolving relationship between unemployment and inflation as consumers now anticipate lower inflation and higher unemployment. [More...]

See the chart below for a long-term perspective on this widely watched indicator. Recessions and real GDP are included to help us evaluate the correlation between the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the broader economy.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment

To put today's report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is 10.9 percent above the average reading (arithmetic mean) and 12.2 percent above the geometric mean. The current index level is at the 77th percentile of the 494 monthly data points in this series.

 

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