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February 2, 2018 10:45 AM, EST

Consumer Sentiment Tops Estimates on Jobs, Income Outlook

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

U.S. consumer sentiment exceeded analyst estimates in January as the outlook for jobs and household income improved, University of Michigan survey data showed Feb. 2.

Highlights of Final Michigan Sentiment for January

• Sentiment index inched down to 95.7 (estimated 95) from 95.9 in December; preliminary reading was 94.4.

• Current conditions gauge, which measures Americans’ perceptions of their finances, dipped to 110.5 .from 113.8 in the prior month; preliminary reading was 109.2.

•Expectations measure advanced to 86.3 from 84.3; preliminary reading was 84.8.

• Year-ahead inflation expectations were unchanged at 2.7%.

Key Takeaways

The main index remains above-average historically, and other measures of confidence are near the highest in more than a decade.

Elevated stock prices, along with steady gains in jobs and wages, are likely to support consumer confidence going forward. Consumers put the probability of stock increases during 2018 at 67%, the highest on record dating back to 2002.

A report earlier Feb. 2 showed nonfarm payrolls rose 200,000 in January, exceeding analyst estimates as wages increased at the fastest annual pace since the end of the recession.

At the same time, growing interest rates could limit sentiment, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rising this week to the highest level in 10 months.

Conditions for buying homes fell to the lowest level in seven years, according to the report, and the environment for buying vehicles and household durables dipped slightly but remained favorable.

Official’s Views

“The motivating force behind purchase decisions has shifted from discounts on price and interest rates to increased confidence in future job security and growth in wages as well as financial assets,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan consumer survey, said in a statement. “The tax cuts will increase discretionary spending once higher energy bills due to the unusually cold weather are paid.”

Other Details

• Inflation rate over next five to 10 years seen at 2.5% after 2.4% in December.

• 22% of consumers spontaneously mentioned that tax reforms would have a positive impact, compared with 6% who cited a negative impact.

• Consumers’ assessment of their financial situation was unchanged at the best levels since 2000.