After modest decline in August, consumer confidence continued to fall in September, marking the biggest monthly decline this year.
The Consumer Confidence Index, reported by the Conference Board, slipped 9.1 points from 134.2 in August to 125.1 in September, as households are less optimistic about short-term economic outlook and recent escalation in trade tensions. The Present Situation Index decreased 7.0 points from 176.0 to 169.0, after hitting 19-year high last month, and the Expectation Situation Index dropped 10.6 points from 106.4 to 95.8, the lowest reading since January.
Both consumers’ assessment of current conditions and the short-term future weakened in September. The shares of respondents rating business conditions “good” fell by 3.6 percentage points to 37.3%, and those claiming business conditions “bad” rose by 2.8 percentage points to 12.7%. In addition to business optimism cooling, less favorable labor market conditions, following softer job growth last month, has drawn attention. The share of respondents reporting that jobs were “plentiful” decreased by 5.5 percentage points, while those saw jobs as “hard to get” declined slightly by 0.4 percentage points. The gap between these two shares has narrowed.
Though consumer confidence remains at a high level, the continued uncertainty, especially related to the recent escalation in trade and tariff may dampen consumer’s optimism about short-term outlook and result in further volatility in the index.
The Conference Board also reported the share of respondents planning to buy a home within six months. The share of respondents planning to buy a home fell to 5.2% in September. The share of respondents planning to buy a newly constructed home declined to 0.9%, and for those who planning to buy an existing home decreased to 2.7%. Despite the dimming economic outlook due to escalating trade conflicts, the Federal Reserve’s additional rate cut last week will provide a more favorable borrowing environment to home buyers.