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U.S. consumer confidence fell in January for the first time in four months as Americans’ views about the outlook for the economy and labor market cooled.
The Conference Board’s index decreased to 113.8 from a downwardly revised 115.2 reading in December, according to the group’s report Tuesday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had called for a reading of 111.2.
Fewer consumers expected the economy to improve, incomes to increase and more jobs to be available in the next six months. At the same time, Americans were more upbeat about present business conditions. The share of respondents who said conditions were “good” rose to a six-month high, and buying plans firmed.
The Conference Board’s expectations index fell to 90.8 from 95.4, while the gauge of current conditions improved to a five-month high of 148.2.
“Expectations about short-term growth prospects weakened, pointing to a likely moderation in growth during the first quarter of 2022,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Looking ahead, both confidence and consumer spending may continue to be challenged by rising prices and the ongoing pandemic.”
While still elevated, concerns about the prospects for inflation moderated in January, the group said.
The share of consumers who expect their incomes to rise fell to 16.7 per cent, the lowest since May. Those who see their wages falling rose to 12.4 per cent, the highest since February.
Consumers who plan to buy a home in the next six months rose to a record, and plans to purchase cars and major appliances increased to multi-month highs. Following government relief programs, households are flush with cash.
“These figures would suggest that they are eyeing some big purchases once the pandemic calms down a bit,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, said in a note.