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Consumer Confidence Sputters Again in April

Concerns centered on food and gas prices

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Prices at the gas pump were among consumers’ top concerns in April. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

While the overall U.S. economy charged ahead, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index deteriorated for the third consecutive month in April, retreating to 97.0 (1985=100) from a downwardly revised 103.1 in March. Despite three consecutive months of weakness, the gauge continues to move sideways within a relatively narrow range that’s largely held steady for more than two years.

“Confidence retreated further in April, reaching its lowest level since July 2022 as consumers became less positive about the current labor market situation, and more concerned about future business conditions, job availability and income,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist at The Conference Board. “Despite April’s dip in the overall index, since mid-2022, optimism about the present situation continues to more than offset concerns about the future.”

The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—declined to 142.9 (1985=100) in April from a downwardly revised 146.8 in March. Meanwhile, the Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—fell to 66.4 (1985=100) from a slightly upwardly revised 74.0 last month. An Expectations Index reading below 80 often signals a forthcoming recession.

Peterson added: “According to April’s write-in responses, elevated price levels, especially for food and gas, dominated consumer’s concerns, with politics and global conflicts as distant runners-up. Average 12-month inflation expectations remained stable at 5.3 percent despite concerns about food and energy prices. Consumers’ Perceived Likelihood of a US Recession over the Next 12 Months rose slightly in April but is still well below the May 2023 peak.”

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on an online sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Toluna, a technology company that delivers real-time consumer insights and market research through its innovative technology, expertise, and panel of over 36 million consumers. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was April 24.

Click here for more from the survey.

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