Consumer confidence surveys offer mixed news
Two consumer confidence surveys that came out last week show buyer confidence is generally holding steady or slightly up.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index rose from 78.3 in February to 82.3 in March, a six-year high. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead, said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers had a less upbeat conclusion, with the Index of Consumer Sentiment down slightly from February. But the survey said consumers viewed their financial prospects for the year ahead much more favorably in March than at the start of the winter season. One in three consumers reported that they expect their financial situation to improve in the year ahead. The gain was concentrated among those under 45.
On the down side, the University of Michigan survey showed that plans to purchase homes and vehicles declined in March because of fewer discounted interest rates. Since consumers have become accustomed to very low interest rates on loans, even small increases, which simply tempered demand in the past, could now have a much more pronounced impact on sales of homes and vehicles, said Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin.Download Bulletin PDF