The University of Michigan’s preliminary reading of its Consumer Sentiment Index dropped to 60.4, the lowest since May, from October’s final reading of 63.8.
The median expectation among economists in a Reuters poll had been for the index to be little changed at 63.7.
The survey’s preliminary gauge of current conditions fell to 65.7 from last month’s final level of 70.6, while the expectations index slid to 56.9 from 59.3 in October. Like the headline index, both subindexes were the lowest since May.
Consumers’ outlook for inflation in the year ahead rose for a second month to a seven-month high of 4.4%. Over a five-year horizon, consumers expect inflation to average 3.2%, up from 3.0% in October and the highest since March 2011.
Officials at the Federal Reserve, who have raised interest rates by 5.25 percentage points since March 2022 to lower inflation from four-decade highs, keep close tabs on consumers’ attitudes about price trends. They are keen to see inflation expectations trend lower so as not to alter consumption behavior that could reverse the gains they have made in slowing the pace of price increases.
Thanks largely to persistent inflation, American households have held a broadly sour view of the U.S. economy and their own prospects ever since the pandemic struck in early 2020, even though overall employment is back to record highs, jobless rates are near historic lows, wages have been rising faster than before the health crisis, and overall economic growth has been running well above trend.
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