Consumer sentiment in U.S. fell less than forecast in June

June 28, 2013 05:43 AM

Consumer sentiment fell less than forecast in June from an almost six-year high a month earlier as Americans grew more upbeat about the economic outlook.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan said today that its final index of confidence eased to 84.1 this month from 84.5 at the end of May, which was the highest since July 2007. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 83 in the gauge after a preliminary reading of 82.7.

Rising residential property values and gains in employment have spurred demands for housing and automobiles, underpinning Americans’ confidence in the outlook for the expansion. At the same time, bigger gains in confidence may prove difficult after the recent retreat in stock prices and an increase in borrowing costs.

“Consumer sentiment seems to be holding up fairly well despite some of the more recent turmoil we’ve seen in the market,” Sean Incremona, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, who projected a rise in the gauge to 84, said before the report. “Equity prices are still pretty solid, the housing market’s recovering and the job market has looked better over the course of the last several months.”

Stocks maintained losses after the report and another figure that showed business activity cooled more than projected. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.5% to 1,604.95 at 10:20 a.m. in New York.

Chicago Report

The MNI Chicago Report’s business barometer dropped to 51.6 this month from 58.7 in May, which was the highest in more than a year. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between expansion and contraction. The median forecast of 55 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 55.

Forecasts of the 68 economists for sentiment in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 80.5 to 85.3. The index averaged 64.2 during the recession that ended in June 2009, and 89 in the five years prior.

The Michigan survey compares with the weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which climbed to minus 28.3 for the period ended June 23, its highest level in more than five years, from minus 29.4. The advance was driven by a more optimistic view on shopping, with the buying climate index rising as more households said the time was right to purchase things.

The drop in the Michigan survey this month was centered in the current conditions index, which takes stock of Americans’ views of their personal finances. The measure decreased to 93.8 from 98 in May, which was the highest since August 2007. It compared with a preliminary June reading of 92.1.

Consumer Expectations

The index of expectations six months from now climbed to a eight-month high of 77.8 from 75.8 in May. The preliminary June figure was 76.7.

A report yesterday showed consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of the economy, increased in May following the largest drop in more than three years. Purchases rose 0.3% after a 0.3% decline the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed. Incomes advanced 0.5%, more than projected.

Retail sales rose 0.6% in May, higher than forecast and the biggest increase in three months, Commerce Department figures showed earlier this month.

A bright spot continues to be automobile sales. Cars and light trucks sold at a 15.2 million annualized rate in May, putting 2013 on course to be the best year for the industry since 2007, data from automakers show.

Winnebago Sales

Winnebago Industries Inc. said its motorized sales order backlog has grown in each of the last six quarters, and it’s been increasing production of its recreation vehicles to meet demand.

“This is a reflection of our dealer network’s confidence in our motorhome products, as well as a confidence in the overall industry as they prepare for the summer season,” Randy Potts, chairman, chief executive officer and president of the Forest City, Iowa-based company, said during a June 27 earnings call.

Sustained job growth is helping support sentiment. Employers added 175,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department figures show. Hiring gains averaged 189,200 in the first five months this year compared with 182,750 for all of 2012.

Jobless claims decreased by 9,000 to 346,000 in the week ended June 22 from a revised 355,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported yesterday. Smaller declines in headcounts indicate employers are confident enough that demand will be sustained as the housing market continues to improve and consumer confidence holds steady.

The Michigan survey showed that Americans expect an inflation rate of 3% over the next 12 months, the lowest since July 2012. Over the next five years, Americans expect a 2.9% rate of inflation, the same as projected the previous two months.

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