Although confidence remains anemic, it is stabilizing in some economies.
The unemployment rate is rising at record levels over the year, and bringing consumer confidence down hard. In fact, the consumer confidence measures for these same economies imply further economic contraction into the first quarter of 2009. Each index shows anemic confidence numbers from January 2009 through March 2009.
I normally am quite skeptical of consumer confidence surveys, and certainly consumers can change their tune with a bit of good news heading their way; but these numbers do point toward ongoing economic deterioration. However, some - the U.K., the EU, and Japan - are improving slightly....this is semi-good news.
The United Kingdom
GfK NOP Consumer Confidence:The European Union/Eurozone
Consumers remain cautious but confidence slowly increasing; confidence highest since May 2008, but remains low; GfK NOP Consumer Confidence Index has increased five points to -30; confidence in the “general economy” over the next 12 months increases.
Chart source: GfK NOP Consumer Confidence
European Commission Consumer Survey:
The fall in the ESI is attributed to the deteriorating sentiment in the industry and services sectors, which fell by the same amount (-2 points) in both regions. In the other sectors, a mixed picture is emerging. Consumer sentiment stabilised in the EU, but fell by 1 point in the euro area. Retail trade increased by 2 points in the EU and by 1 point in the euro area, reinforcing the rebound which started in February. Construction in both regions stabilised at the levels seen in February.The United States
U.S. Consumer Confidence Survey:
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index™, which had declined sharply in February, was flat in March. The Index now stands at 26.0 (1985=100), up from 25.3 in February. The Present Situation Index declined to 21.5 from 22.3 last month. The Expectations Index increased to 28.9 from 27.3 in February.JapanConsumers' appraisal of the labor market was somewhat more pessimistic in March. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are "hard to get" increased to 48.7 percent from 46.9 percent in February, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" was unchanged at 4.6 percent.
There have been some glimmers of hope in some of the manufacturing indices and housing indicators pointing to a slowdown in the economic contraction. But those are high-frequency indicators; and furthermore, they certainly don't suggest an imminent expansion is on the way, especially with delinquency rates on the rise. And although the surveys may be stabilizing, it is still too early to cheer.