The Conference Board, a private New York-based research group moments ago reported that consumer confidence eased back to a reading of 58.5 in June, down both from May's upwardly revised reading of 61.7 and expectations of a reading of 60.5 for June. The estimate for May had been previously reported as 60.8.
Although a reading of 58.5 is not cause for undue alarm, this metric is still at its lowest point since last November. Readings over the past five months, meanwhile, have been, respectively, 72.0, 63.8, 66.4, 61.7, and the aforementioned 58.5. Clearly, the trend is not encouraging.
Moreover, the report also noted that consumer expectations for economic activity over the next six months fell as well, dropping from 76.7 in May to 72.4 in the current month. Also, the present situations index, which tends in difficult times to be much lower than the expectations category, eased as well, falling from 39.3 in May to 37.6 in June.
One positive note is that inflation expectations dropped in the latest month, largely, it would seem, on declines in gasoline prices. Oil prices have fallen, as well, sinking from about $115 a barrel earlier in the spring to a level of just over $90 recently. That pullback reflects the slowing in global economic activity and expectations going forward.
What is not improving is sentiment towards the employment outlook, with 43.8% of respondents thinking jobs are hard to get this month, up from 43.5% in May. At the same time, just 5.2% of those surveyed think that jobs are plentiful, down from 5.7% last month.
Worse, the report also finds that consumers rated both current business conditions and labor market conditions less favorably than in May, and fewer consumers see things getting better over the next six months. With concerns about income prospects on the rise, the outlook for consumer spending is not favorable. We saw evidence of this latter sentiment yesterday when the Commerce Department reported that personal consumption expenditures were unchanged in May, the latest month for which such figures are available. The current sentiment survey would suggest that the June data on personal spending would not be especially favorable either.
All in all, it was not en encouraging report, although the modest nature of the decline suggests that it was not a disastrous development. At best, we expect to see some choppiness ahead for this sentiment survey, with perhaps some selective improvement as the year winds down.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.