Consumer Sentiment Research Notes

by Jim Baird on February 10, 2012

Sentiment weakens more than expected on mixed economic data

The consumer mood weakened more than expected in February to 72.5 as measured by the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey.  The decline comes just a month after the index hit its highest point in nearly a year.

While recent economic data, particularly related to the jobs market, has improved in recent months, the news hasn’t been universally positive. 

The first estimate of fourth quarter GDP was a bit of a disappointment, although it was still the best quarterly result for the year.  Increasingly, it appears that the increase in consumer spending late in 2011 wasn’t as significant as initially believed. 

To a degree, consumers appear to be shrugging off the recent improvement in the jobs market and strong January returns in stocks. The sharp increase in the price of gasoline since the beginning of the year is a point of frustration, particularly given the stagnation in wage growth.

The result is a collective consumer mood that has improved considerably in the past year, but still constrained by the overall lackluster pace of improvement in economic conditions.

To see news coverage featuring Jim’s comments, please visit the following sites:

Consumer Sentiment Misses Expectations: Analysts React (WSJ)

Stocks Slump as Consumers Fret, Greece Dithers (Barrons)


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