U.S. consumer-sentiment index has fallen to its lowest level in six months


The numbers: The University of Michigan’s gauge of consumer sentiment fell to a preliminary May reading of 57.7 from an April reading of 63.5. That is the lowest level since November last year.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had expected a May reading of 63.

Americans view on near-term inflation moderated slightly in May. They now expect the inflation rate in the next year to average about 4.5%. Inflation expectations had surged to 4.6% in April from 3.6 in March.

Inflation expectations over the next five years rose to 3.2% from 3% in April. That’s the highest reading since 2011.

Key details: A gauge that measures what consumers think about their financial situation — and the current health of the economy — fell to 64.5 from 68.2 in April.

Another measure that asks about expectations for the next six months moved down to 53.4 in May from 60.5 in the prior month.

Big picture: Consumer spending is the engine of the economy. If households grow concerned about the outlook and pull back, it could push the economy into recession.

And Federal Reserve officials won’t be pleased to see expectations of inflation over the long-term increase. They view expectations as a key source of future inflation pressure.

What UMich said: “Consumers’ worries about the economy escalated in May alongside the proliferation of negative news about the economy, including the debt crisis standoff,” the press release said. In the most serious debt-ceiling standoff in 2011 consumer sentiment plummeted to recession levels but recovered quickly when the crisis was averted.

What are they saying? “While we don’t place too much weight on the relationship, if sustained, the latest plunge in consumer sentiment would be consistent with falling consumption in the second quarter. That would be alongside the probable hit to consumption from tightening credit conditions,” said Olivia Cross, assistant economist at Capital Economics.

Market reaction: Stocks DJIA, -0.25% SPX, -0.34% were lower in volatile trading on Friday while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 3.438% rose to 3.41%.

This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.

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