Consumer Confidence in December – Beyond the Monthly Volatile Data

Consumer confidence improved in December after the previous two months declines. The Consumer Confidence Index, recently released by the Conference Board, rose to 96.5 in December from 92.6 in November. Both subcomponents, the present situation and expectations indices, rebounded in December as well. The present situation index rose to 115.3 in December from 110.9 in November; the expectations index climbed up to 83.9 in December from 80.4 in November.

The figure below shows that the real GDP growth rate and consumer confidence are highly correlated over the past three decades. When GDP growth is negative, consumer confidence declines sharply; when growth resumes, consumer confidence increases as well. During the recent recession, as the real GDP growth rate dropped to -8.2%, consumer confidence fell to the historically lowest level in the early 2009. After that, the real GDP growth rate rebounded back to the positive levels and consumer confidence also slowly recovered. As the recovery from the Great Recession continues, consumer confidence is climbing up toward to the pre-recession levels.

Figure 1 December

The Conference Board also reports the shares of respondents planning to buy a lived-in home within six months. The shares of respondents planning to buy a lived-in home within six months fell to 3.4% in December, from 4.0% in November. The trends in the shares of respondents planning to buy a lived-in home within six months and the growth rate of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index (the dash lines) are very similar. When there is high demand for housing house price appreciation accelerates; when there is lower demand for housing house price appreciation decelerates.

Figure 2 December



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