The trivial decline in the Conference Board’s consumer confidence measure to 94.2 in April, from 96.1, which just reversed the rise in March, leaves the index at a level normally consistent with real consumption growth of around 2%.
The decline in the headline index was driven by a dip in the expectations index to a two-year low of 79.3 this month, from 83.6. It appears that the rebound in stock markets has been more than offset by the impact of the recovery in gasoline prices. In contrast, the present situation index improved to 116.4, from 114.9, presumably reflecting the continued strength of labor market conditions. In that vein, the proportion of respondents saying that employment was plentiful did drop back to 24.1, from 25.4, but the proportion saying that jobs were hard to get slumped to 22.7, from 25.2. The upshot is that the net labor differential improved to an eight-year high of +1.4, from +0.2.
Otherwise, one-year inflation expectations were unchanged at 4.8% this month and have been broadly stable for more than a year now. Nothing to worry the Fed on that measure.
Overall, consumer confidence has trended lower in recent months, but the fundamentals for consumption remain encouraging. Labor market conditions are robust, households have scope to run down their saving rate, interest rates are low, debt burdens are low and asset prices (housing and equity) are rising.