CONSUMER CONFIDENCE PLUMMETS

Business Insider

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T he final results of the University of Michigan's October consumer confidence survey are out.

The headline index of confidence fell to 73.2 from October's 77.5 reading.

Economists predicted a smaller drop to 75.0, while preliminary results released by the University of Michigan earlier this month suggested a drop to 75.2.

The economic conditions sub-index fell to 89.9 from September's 92.6 reading, while the economic outlook sub-index fell to 62.5 from 67.8.

Inflation expectations one year ahead were 3.0%, down from 3.3% the month before, while inflation expectations five years ahead were 2.8%, down from 3.0%.

More high-frequency measures of confidence, like Gallup's daily Economic Confidence Index, plummeted over the first two weeks of October as warring parties in Congress sparred over the debt ceiling amid a government shutdown.

"Overall, the decline in confidence makes better sense than the original report which in the event surprised because of the blip higher in the current gauge in the face of the government shutdown," says Miller Tabak chief economic strategist Andrew Wilkinson. "All said and done the reading should be of no surprise but adds little fresh evidence to play with."

The shutdown caused Bank of America to downgrade its forecasts for Q3, Q4, and Q1 2014 GDP growth.

In a note to clients, BofA Merrill Lynch economist Ethan Harris wrote:

As we have noted before, the shutdown has made the economic and Fed outlook much more uncertain. Prior to the shutdown, the economy seemed to be still stuck at 2% growth, but with hope of stronger growth ahead. The shutdown caused both an austerity shock — cuts in government spending — and an uncertainty shock. The shutdown has hurt sentiment a lot, pushing many survey measures lower.

Looking ahead, the issue now is does sentiment quickly go back to pre-crisis levels or does it linger lower? The latter is likely if people worry about a sequence of shutdowns. Hence we need to wait for post-crisis survey data to get a clear sense of the lasting damage. Given release lags, it will take even longer to judge the impact on hard data.

Yesterday's flash PMI release was the first post-shutdown survey, and the results weren't pretty. It revealed the first drop in manufacturing output since September 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis.

Today's release isn't particularly comforting either.



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