Revised data released by the University of Michigan on Friday showed U.S. consumer sentiment deteriorated by even more than initially estimated in the month of August.
The report said the consumer sentiment index for August was downwardly revised to 89.8 from the preliminary reading of 92.1.
The revised reading is down sharply from the final July reading of 98.4, showing the biggest monthly drop since December of 2012.
Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin noted the plunge in late 2012 reflected widespread fears of being pushed off the “fiscal cliff” due to then-impending increases in tax rates and decreases in government spending.
“The recent decline is due to negative references to tariffs, which were spontaneously mentioned by one-in-three consumers,” Curtin said. “Unlike concerns about the fiscal cliff, which were promptly resolved, Trump’s tariff policies have been subject to repeated reversals amid threats of higher future tariffs.”
“Such tactics may have some merit in negotiations with China, but they act to increase uncertainty and diminish consumer spending at home,” he added. “Unlike the repeated tariff reversals, negative trends in consumer sentiment cannot be easily reversed.”
The steep drop by the consumer sentiment index came as the current economic conditions index slumped to 105.3 in August from 110.7 in July, hitting its lowest level since October of 2016.
The index of consumer expectations showed an even more substantial decrease, plunging to 79.9 in August from 90.5 in July. The index hit a matching level in January.
On the inflation front, the report said one-year inflation expectations inched up to 2.7 percent in August from 2.6 percent in July, while five-year inflation expectations ticked up to 2.6 percent from 2.5 percent.
The substantial deterioration in consumer sentiment shown by the University of Michigan represents a stark contrast to data from the Conference Board showing only a slight deterioration in consumer confidence.
The Conference Board released a report on Tuesday showing its consumer confidence index edged down to 135.1 in August after surging up to 135.8 in July. Economists had expected the index to show a much more significant decrease to 130.0.
“Consumer confidence was relatively unchanged in August, following July’s increase,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board. “While other parts of the economy may show some weakening, consumers have remained confident and willing to spend.”
She added, “However, if the recent escalation in trade and tariff tensions persists, it could potentially dampen consumers’ optimism regarding the short-term economic outlook.”
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