Consumer confidence took a leg down in September, owing in part to trade tensions with China, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.
The Board's Consumer Confidence Index® decreased in September, following a slight decline in August, landing at 125.1 (1985=100), down from 134.2 in August and the largest decline in nine months. The consensus estimate for the gauge was for a reading of 133.5.
The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – decreased from 176.0 to 169.0. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – declined from 106.4 last month to 95.8 this month.
“Consumer confidence declined in September, following a moderate decrease in August,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers were less positive in their assessment of current conditions and their expectations regarding the short-term outlook also weakened. The escalation in trade and tariff tensions in late August appears to have rattled consumers. However, this pattern of uncertainty and volatility has persisted for much of the year and it appears confidence is plateauing. While confidence could continue hovering around current levels for months to come, at some point this continued uncertainty will begin to diminish consumers’ confidence in the expansion.”
The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was September 13.
Consumers’ appraisal of current-day conditions was somewhat less favorable in September. Those claiming business conditions are “good” decreased from 40.9% to 37.3%, while those saying business conditions are “bad” increased from 9.9% to 12.7%. Consumers’ assessment of the job market was also less favorable. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 50.3% to 44.8%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined slightly from 12.0% to 11.6%.
Consumers were less optimistic about the short-term outlook in September. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will be better six months from now decreased from 21.6% to 19.0%, while those expecting business conditions will worsen increased from 10.2% to 14.3%.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also less upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 19.9% to 17.5%, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased from 13.7% to 15.7%. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the percentage of consumers expecting an improvement decreased from 24.7% to 19.0%, however the proportion expecting a decrease also declined, from 6.3% to 5.6%.