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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Sentiment Sagged
by Tom Moeller August 18, 2006

Consumer sentiment in early August dropped sharply to the lowest level since last October, according to the University of Michigan. The 7.1% m/m decline in the sentiment index to 78.7 compared to consensus expectations for stability at 84.0.

During the last ten years there has been a 76% correlation between the level of consumer sentiment and the y/y change in real consumer spending and during those ten years sentiment has a 68% correlation with the change in nonfarm payrolls.

Expectations for the economy posted a notable 11.0% m/m drop to the lowest level last October. The decline was led by a sharp decline in expected 12 month business conditions to the lowest level since September and a more moderate drop in expected conditions during the next five years. The expected change in personal finances also fell sharply to the lowest level since May.

The reading of current economic conditions fell moderately for the second straight month. Details indicate that the index of current personal finances dropped to the lowest level since May but perceived buying conditions for large household goods slipped just modestly m/m (-4.3% y/y).

Consumers' opinion about gov't economic policy slipped a modest 2.4% m/m (-5.9% y/y) after sharp improvement during July. Expected inflation during the next year surged m/m to 4.9%, its highest level in nearly a year. The five to ten year expected rate of inflation also rose to 3.5%, its highest since May.

The University of Michigan survey is not seasonally adjusted.The mid-month survey is based on telephone interviews with 250 households nationwide on personal finances and business and buying conditions. The survey is expanded to a total of 500 interviews at month end.

University of Michigan August (Prelim) July Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Consumer Sentiment 78.7 84.7 -11.7% 88.6 95.2 87.6
   Current Conditions 100.8 103.5 -6.8% 105.9 105.6 97.2
   Expectations 64.5 72.5 -16.1% 77.4 88.5 81.4
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