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Consumer optimism shaken in November

Gas uptick called likely influencer by COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS | November 30, 2022 at 2:37 a.m.

U.S. consumer confidence fell in November to a four-month low amid the double blow of persistent inflation and rising interest rates.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index decreased to 100.2 this month from a revised 102.2 reading in October, according to data released Tuesday, indicating Americans are taking a more gloomy view about the economy.

Before the pandemic, the index regularly topped 120. November's figure is the lowest since July and likely reflected an uptick in gas prices earlier this fall, said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

Gas prices have since reversed and fell to $3.52 a gallon, on average, nationwide Tuesday, according to AAA. That's down from $3.76 a month ago. In Arkansas, gas prices fell Tuesday to an average $3.02 per gallon, down from $3.27 a month ago.

According to the Tuesday consumer data, a measure of expectations -- which reflects consumers' six-month outlook -- fell to 75.4, while the group's gauge of current conditions decreased to 137.4, the lowest since April 2021.

Despite the negative outlook, however, most Americans -- particularly those with higher incomes -- are still spending, fueling a generally healthy start to the winter holiday shopping season last weekend.

The business research group's present situation index -- which measures consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions -- dropped slightly to 137.4 from 138.7 in October.

And the board's expectations index -- a measure of consumers' six-month outlook for income, business and labor conditions -- declined to 75.4 from 77.9 last month.

Still, Americans opened their wallets on Black Friday and over the post-Thanksgiving weekend. Spending on Black Friday jumped 12% compared with a year ago, according to MasterCard Spending Pulse, although that figure is not adjusted for inflation.

And on so-called Cyber Monday, Americans boosted their online spending by 5.8% from a year earlier, Adobe Analytics said. Retailers from Target to Nordstrom have been dangling steep discounts to clear a glut of inventory, especially for the holiday season.

Meanwhile, buying plans for homes, vehicles and major appliances declined during the month, the Conference Board data showed.

The personal consumption expenditures price index, which the Federal Reserve uses for its 2% inflation target, and real consumer spending data for October will be released Thursday.

Information for this article was contributed by Molly Smith of Bloomberg News (WPNS) and Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Consumer optimism shaken in November

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