U.S. Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Rebounds In May

Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly saw a significant improvement in the month of May, according to a report released by the Conference Board on Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index jumped to 102.0 in May from an upwardly revised 97.5 in April.

The rebound surprised economists, who had expected the consumer confidence index to decrease to 95.3 from the 97.0 originally reported for the previous month.

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The unexpected increase by the headline index came as the present situation index rose to 143.1 in May from 140.6 in April.

“Consumers’ assessment of current business conditions was slightly less positive than last month,” said Dana M. Peterson, Chief Economist at The Conference Board. “However, the strong labor market continued to bolster consumers’ overall assessment of the present situation.”

The expectations index also surged to 74.6 in May from 68.8 in April, although a reading below 80 usually signals a recession ahead.

“Looking ahead, fewer consumers expected deterioration in future business conditions, job availability, and income, resulting in an increase in the Expectation Index,” said Peterson.

She added, “Nonetheless, the overall confidence gauge remained within the relatively narrow range it has been hovering in for more than two years.”

Peterson also noted consumer write-in responses in May cited prices, especially for food and groceries, as having the greatest impact on their view of the U.S. economy.

“Notably, average 12-month inflation expectations ticked up from 5.3 percent to 5.4 percent,” Peterson said. “Perhaps as a consequence, the share of consumers expecting higher interest rates over the year ahead also rose, from 55.2 percent to 56.2 percent.”

Revised data released by the University of Michigan last Friday showed consumer sentiment in the U.S. deteriorated slightly less than previously estimated in the month of May.

The report said the consumer sentiment index for May was upwardly revised to 69.1 from the preliminary reading of 67.4. Economists had expected the index to be unrevised.

Despite the upward revision, the consumer sentiment index still fell sharply from 77.2 in April, slumping to its lowest level since hitting 61.3 last November.

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