The overall outlook of Americans on the economy has seen a substantial improvement recently. Since November, there has been a remarkable 29% surge in consumer sentiment, as reported by the University of Michigan. This marks the most significant two-month rise since 1991,, indicating a shift in the public mood. The increase in optimism is a notable change from the previous years, which were marred by continuous high inflation, the prolonged impact of the pandemic, and looming recession fears. These factors had previously cast a shadow over economic perceptions, despite the reality of steady growth and consistent job creation.
- At the moment, there's a noticeable shift in sentiment as inflation begins to stabilize and the Federal Reserve hints at a halt in interest rate hikes. The robust job market is contributing positively, boosting consumer spending and diminishing fears of a recession in 2024.
- The Michigan survey highlights a 13% jump in consumer sentiment in early January compared to December, following a significant rise in the preceding month. This uplift in mood spans across various demographics, including age, income, education, and location.
Joanne Hsu, director of the Michigan survey, suggests that this rebound in sentiment is poised to positively influence the economy. However, it's important to note that despite these gains, sentiment levels are still about 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2020.
- Factors such as the decline in gas prices have had a positive impact on individual consumers. This improvement in spending power is seen as a potential catalyst for broader economic betterment.
- The renewed optimism in Americans plays a crucial role in economic growth, as consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Other indicators, like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey and the Conference Board's consumer confidence measure, also reflect this emerging positive trend.
Factors Behind The Surge
Several factors are contributing to the uplift in American economic sentiment. These include low unemployment rates, strong hiring, cooling inflation, reduced mortgage rates, and a high-performing stock market.
- Inflation expectations have also declined, with consumer anticipation for inflation a year ahead falling to 2.9% in January, the lowest since December 2020. Home-buying sentiment, as per Fannie Mae's index, has also seen an uptick, partly due to expectations of lower mortgage rates.
- Affluent households, particularly those earning $100,000 or more annually, have shown a marked improvement in sentiment, possibly influenced by the stock market's robust performance.
- Media coverage, too, has played a role, with a more positive tone in economy-related articles since November.
However, risks to the economy and public mood persist. While a recession in 2024 is not widely anticipated, economic growth is expected to slow down due to the cumulative effects of interest rate hikes. Persistent inflation and global events could further influence consumer sentiment. Additionally, a too-strong economy could lead to prolonged high interest rates, increasing the cost of financing for consumers.
Crucial Election Year
The economy's state remains a pivotal issue politically as the 2024 elections approach. Republicans have been critical of President Biden's handling of inflation and economic policies. On the other hand, the Biden administration argues that its policies have strengthened the labor market and reduced inflation. However, public opinion polls suggest that these economic concerns are impacting Biden's approval ratings negatively.
- Former President Donald Trump is emphasizing his economic achievements during his tenure, highlighting low unemployment and controlled inflation before the pandemic-induced recession.
- The improving economic outlook could bolster President Biden's re-election chances if it signifies that his economic message is resonating with the public, as noted by Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson.
Please note that this article does not constitute investment advice in any form. This article is not a research report and is not intended to serve as the basis for any investment decision. All investments involve risk and the past performance of a security or financial product does not guarantee future returns. Investors have to conduct their own research before conducting any transaction. There is always the risk of losing parts or all of your money when you invest in securities or other financial products. Please note that the writer of this article is not registered as a financial advisor.