Michigan Consumer Sentiment: September Prelim Improved

The September Preliminary came in at 78.9, up 4.8 from the August Final. Investing.com had forecast 75.0.

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

Consumer sentiment improved in early September, reaching the top of the range it has traveled since April. While the recent gain was consistent with an unchanged flat trend, the data indicated that the election has begun to have an impact on expectations about future economic prospects. The Michigan surveys have traditionally asked consumers which candidate they thought would win the election, not whom they favored or how they intended to vote. The data from July to September indicate a virtual tie. This question has been asked since Carter ran against Ford in 1976, and in every presidential election, consumers correctly chose the winner, save one: when Trump ran against Clinton in 2016, two-thirds of consumers expected a Clinton victory. In one other election had the data been as close as now--in the 1980 election that had Reagan over Carter by one percentage point. Note that the September gains were primarily in the outlook for the economy, and it was Democrats that posted gains in economic prospects while optimism about the economy weakened among Republicans. When consumers were directly asked which candidate would be better for the economy and for their personal finances, Trump was chosen over Biden as more likely to benefit the economy and their finances, although most consumers said there was no difference with regard to their own finances. Over the next several months, there are two factors that could cause volatile shifts and steep losses in consumer confidence: how the election is decided and the delays in obtaining vaccinations. While the end of the recession will depend on these non-economic factors, the hardships endured by consumers can only be offset by renewed federal relief payments. [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.

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