American Consumer Sentiment Plunges While Inflation Expectations Rise
American Consumer Sentiment Plunges While Inflation Expectations Rise

By Naveen Athrappully

Consumer sentiment fell last month while expectations of inflation among the general populace rose, according to a University of Michigan survey that is closely followed by the Federal Reserve.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment came in at 54.7 in November, down 8.7 percent from 59.9 in October, data from the surveys of consumers conducted by the university showed. On a yearly basis, the index decreased by 18.8 percent. With the decline, the index has erased roughly half the gains recorded since the historic low registered in June.

All components of the index fell for the month, with the buying conditions for durables falling the most with a decline of 21 percent due to high prices and interest rates.

The fall in consumer sentiment was observed irrespective of age, income, political affiliation, geography, and education, potentially signaling that the recent improvement seen in sentiment was only tentative.

With regard to inflation, “the median expected year-ahead inflation rate was 5.1 percent, up from 5.0 percent last month. Long-run inflation expectations, currently at 3.0 percent, have remained in the narrow (albeit elevated) 2.9-3.1 percent range for 15 of the last 16 months,” survey director Joanne Hsu said in the results.

The Michigan University survey results come as latest government data showed the 12-month Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising by 7.7 percent in October, down from 8.2 percent in September and this year’s peak of 9.1 percent in June.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, warned that though the October CPI came in below investor expectations, it does not mean that the fight against inflationary pressure is over.

“If this constitutes improvement, we’ve set a very low bar,” he said while adding that the “pervasiveness” of price increases continues to remain a problem.

Fed Policy

The consumer expectation survey of Michigan University is something that the Federal Reserve keeps an eye on and influences their decisions regarding interest rates.

During a press conference in June that followed a hike in interest rates by 0.75 percentage points, Fed Chair Jerome Powell admitted that the Michigan survey pushed the central bank to increase the interest hike from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina, said that the Fed has “telegraphed their intentions to slow the pace of rate increases and this report will not likely alter those intentions.”

“However, those views could change if inflation expectations reach the elevated levels [of] earlier this year.”

At the beginning of 2022, the Fed was maintaining its benchmark interest rate at 0.25 percent. This has been pushed up to a range of 3.75 to 4 percent at present.

Speaking to the Financial Times, David Wilcox from the Peterson Institute for International Economics pointed out that every adverse inflation report and adverse development in the world “implies” that the Fed is going to have to “do more” to bring the situation under control.

“Doing more means a higher probability of a recession, and if it happens, in all likelihood a deeper recession.”

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