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US consumer sentiment exceeds forecast

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US consumer sentiment exceeded estimates in April on Americans' increasingly favorable views of their finances, University of Michigan survey data showed Friday. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

[NEW YORK] US consumer sentiment exceeded estimates in April on Americans' increasingly favorable views of their finances, University of Michigan survey data showed Friday.

Sentiment index fell to 98.8  from 101.4 in March; preliminary reading was 97.8

While the decline reflected negative sentiment about the effect of tariffs on the economy, consumers remained upbeat about their financial situation, partly a reflection of the recent tax legislation, according to the University of Michigan.

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Recent income gains were reported by 25 per cent of respondents, up from 18 per cent a year ago. Some 40 per cent expected income gains, on par with the average over the past year.

Even with the cooling, sentiment remains elevated by historical standards, higher than any other annual average since 2000.

That, along with tax cuts that have boosted Americans' disposable income, bodes well for a pickup in consumer spending following a 1.1 per cent annualized advance in the first quarter as reported earlier Friday by the Commerce Department.

According to the university, the level of sentiment is consistent with 2.7 per cent real personal consumption in the coming year.

While consumers pulled back last quarter, solid business investment, higher employee compensation and tax cuts are expected to buoy growth in the second quarter, in line with the Federal Reserve's view that the factors holding back growth were transitory.

A measure of inflation in the GDP report, tied to consumer spending and excluding volatile food and energy costs, advanced at a 2.5 per cent annualized pace, the fastest since 2011, adding to signs that price gains are picking up. The Michigan survey showed consumers expect inflation to average 2.5 per cent over the next five years.

BLOOMBERG