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Consumer Sentiment  
Released On 3/16/2012 9:55:00 AM For Ma(p)r, 2012
PriorConsensusConsensus RangeActual
Sentiment Index - Level75.3 76.0 73.0  to 78.8 74.3 

Rising gas prices may not yet be affecting core inflation at the consumer level but the consumer's inflationary expectations are definitely on the rise. One-year inflation expectations surged seven tenths during the first two weeks of this month to 4.0 percent which is a very high reading for this report. But five-year inflation expectations, up only one tenth to 3.0 percent, suggest that consumers, at least so far, see the jump at the pump as only temporary.

High gas prices not only affect inflation expectations but they also eat into income expectations as well, a factor no doubt at play in a one point decline in the headline consumer sentiment index to 74.3. The decline, which interrupts this year's positive momentum, is centered in the expectations component, down more than two points to 68.0. The current conditions component, reflecting the ongoing run of very solid job and retail sales data, rose more than one point to 84.2. The Dow is moving off opening highs in reaction to today's report.

Consensus Outlook
The Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose three tenths from January for a final February reading 75.3. This compared to mid-February at 72.5 and reflected a strong second-half showing with the implied reading for the period at 78.1 in what would be the best level of the recovery so far.

The University of Michigan's Consumer Survey Center questions 600 households each month on their financial conditions and attitudes about the economy. Consumer sentiment is directly related to the strength of consumer spending. Consumer confidence and consumer sentiment are two ways of talking about consumer attitudes. Among economic reports, consumer sentiment refers to the Michigan survey while consumer confidence refers to The Conference Board's survey. Preliminary estimates for a month are released at mid-month. Final estimates for a month are released near the end of the month.  Why Investors Care
Consumer sentiment is mainly affected by inflation and employment conditions. However, consumers are also impacted by current events such as bear & bull markets, geopolitical events such as war and terrorist attacks. Investors monitor consumer sentiment because it tends to have an impact on consumer spending over the long run (although not necessarily on a monthly basis.)

2012 Release Schedule
Released On: 1/131/272/102/243/163/304/134/275/115/256/156/297/137/278/17
Release For: JanJanFebFebMa(p)rMarAprAprMayMayJunJunJulJulAug
Released On: 8/319/149/2810/1210/2611/911/2112/712/21
Release For: AugSepSepOctOctNovNovDecDec

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