The report on consumer confidence in March that was released recently by BIGinsight recorded a modest gain from February, but that result is being countered by the Conference Board reading, which noted a slip in its Consumer Confidence Index from 71.6 to 70.2. What both reports had in common was mixed results underneath the top-line number.
BIGinsight had noted that despite being optimistic about the prospects for economic improvement, consumers were actually battening down the hatches in terms of their household finances.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board noted that its Present Situation Index had undergone a significant increase, rising from 46.4 to 51.0. But that was equaled by a loss of confidence demonstrated in the Expectations Index, which fell from 88.4 to 83.0. CB’s research is provided by Nielsen.
CB’s Lynn Franco commented, “Consumer Confidence pulled back slightly in March, after rising sharply in February. The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumers’ assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve. The Present Situation Index now stands at its highest level in three and a half years (61.1, Sept. 2008), suggesting that despite this month’s dip in confidence, consumers feel the economy is not losing momentum.”
Another contradictory result was the fact that the percentage of respondents thinking business conditions are good and bad both increase. Those citing good conditions went from 13.7% to 14.3%; and those saying bad went from 31.7% to 32.7%.
Similar mixed results were generated when asking about employment, with those saying jobs are plentiful going from 7.0% to 9.4%, even while those saying jobs are hard to get rose from 38.6% to 41.0%.
RBR-TVBR observation: The contradictory results of both confidence surveys seem to indicate that there is still a certain amount of prevailing optimism, but things still aren’t improving fast enough for most people’s tastes. One thing is for sure – these results are much better than the freefall we were watching a few years ago.