Consumer Confidence Slips Unexpectedly in January

In a release issued Tuesday by The Conference Board, the Consumer Confidence Index CCI fell slightly in January to 61.1 (1985=100), from 64.8 in December. Consensus forecasts had been a for rise to 68.

The decrease came after increases in November and December. The current downturn came in part from fewer consumers describing business conditions as ‘good’ (16.3 percent to 13.3 percent), and more saying conditions are ‘bad’ (38.7 percent from 33.5 percent). Expectations of income increases were also down, 13.8 percent from 16.3. Survey participants also were more likely to say that jobs were less plentiful, and that they were harder to get, but they also expected that this situation would turn around in the months ahead; short term employment outlooks were more negative than those for the longer term.

The decreases in the statistics were modest but still were unexpected. Increasing gasoline prices were given as a possible cause in consumer uneasiness by Conference Board Director Lynn Franco.

The results represent one month and could be an anomaly, but consumer confidence drives consumer spending, for which there is no substitute in an economic recovery. It is also possible that the sentiments in January were in part affected by post Holiday letdowns in expectations. The February Index will be released on the 28th, and will help to clarify the January results.

The Survey is conducted by Nielsen, and had a cutoff date of January 19. Figures given Tuesday were preliminary results.