Measures of consumer confidence fell in September following strong growth at the start of the year and a summer of mixed signals. The Conference Board reported that the Consumer Confidence Index decreased by 2.1 points, 2.6%, on a month-over-month seasonally adjusted basis in September to 79.7. According to Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, the Consumer Sentiment Index fell in September by 4.6 points from the previous month and nearly 9% from six-year high of 85.1 in July.
Both measures fell in large part as consumers grew more pessimistic about jobs and earnings. According to the Conference Board, the share of consumers expecting fewer jobs increased at the same time the share expecting an increase in incomes decreased. In September, 15.4% anticipated an increase in income over the next 6 months down from 17.5% in August.
In spite the decline in consumer confidence, according to the Conference Board, the share of consumers planning to buy a home in the next 6 months increased to nearly 6% in September on a seasonally adjusted 3-month moving average basis. Over this same period, the share of respondents planning to purchase a “lived-in” home increased to 3.7% while the share of respondents planning to purchase a new home was unchanged at 1.1%.
According to the Freddie Mac weekly primary mortgage survey, in September home buyers saw a reprieve from previous increases in mortgage interest rates. However, a majority of consumers still believe interest rates will increase in the next twelve months. According to the Conference Board, the share of respondents expecting higher interest rates increased in September by 2.3 percentage points to 68.4% on a seasonally adjusted 3-month moving average basis. The expectation that interest rates will rise in the next twelve may be pushing up plans to buy a home in the next 6 months in spite of declining consumer confidence.