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U.S. consumer sentiment at 4-month high

Christian Fernsby |
The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment for the US edged up to 95.7 in November from 95.5 in October, preliminary data showed.

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Topics: U.S.   

It is the highest reading in four months, although it came below market expectations of 95.9. Consumers voiced a slightly more positive outlook for the economy, which was offset by a slightly less favorable outlook for their own personal finances.

The consumer expectations index increased to 85.9 from 84.2 while the gauge for current economic conditions declined to 110.9 from 113.2.

Inflation expectations for the year ahead remained unchanged at 2.5 percent and those for the next five years increased to 2.4 percent from 2.3 percent.

Spontaneous negative references to tariffs were still mentioned by one-in-four consumers in early November. References to the impact of impeachment on economic prospects were virtually non-existent, mentioned by less than 2% in October and November.

The lack of impact on economic prospects is broadly similar to Clinton's but not Nixon's impeachment inquiry. The critical difference was that during Clinton's impeachment, economic conditions remained very favorable; indeed consumer sentiment was at its most favorable levels ever recorded.

In contrast, Nixon's impeachment inquiry started at the same time as the oil embargo in October 1973, with oil prices quadrupling over the next six months. While consumers voiced a rapid collapse in optimism, many believed Nixon was too distracted to attend to their concerns about escalating inflation and unemployment, or that the economy would fall into recession in late 1973.

The current performance of the economy, in contrast, is neither as bleak as Nixon's nor as good as Clinton's. The strongest aspect of the current economy has been job and wage gains. Although consumers have become somewhat more cautious spenders, they see no reason to engage in the type of retrenchment that causes recessions.

While most consumers do not anticipate year-to-year increases in the unemployment rate, the majority of consumers expect the unemployment rate to remain largely unchanged at its lowest level in 50 years.

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