Consumer Confidence Increased In May

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by: Doug Short

By Jill Mislinski

The latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released on Tuesday morning based on data collected through May 16. The headline number of 128.0 was an increase from the final reading of 125.6 for April, a downward revision from 128.7. Tuesday's number was below the Investing.com consensus of 128.2.

Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board press release:

"Consumer confidence increased in May after a modest decline in April," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers' assessment of current conditions increased to a 17-year high (March 2001, 167.5), suggesting that the level of economic growth in Q2 is likely to have improved from Q1. Consumers' short-term expectations improved modestly, suggesting that the pace of growth over the coming months is not likely to gain any significant momentum. Overall, confidence levels remain at historically strong levels and should continue to support solid consumer spending in the near-term."

Putting the Latest Number in Context

The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end, we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference.

For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.

And finally, let's take a look at the correlation between consumer confidence and small business sentiment, the latter by way of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index. As the chart illustrates, the two have tracked one another fairly closely since the onset of the Financial Crisis, although a spread appears infrequently, with the most recent spread showing up 2015 through 2017.