After disappointing in January (both current and expectations), analysts expected a rebound in consumer sentiment in preliminary February data (both current and expectations), but they were very disappointed as everything missed expectations.
U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly declined to a six-month low in early February as the outlook for personal income deteriorated and more Americans anticipated faster inflation in the year ahead.
The gauge of expectations decreased to a six-month low of 69.8 while a measure of current conditions eased to 86.2, according to the survey conducted from Jan. 27 to Feb. 10.
The entire drop in sentiment is concentrated in the Expectation Index and among households with incomes below $75,000. Households with incomes in the bottom third reported significant setbacks in their current finances, with fewer of these households mentioning recent income gains than anytime since 2014.
When asked to assess their current financial position, the deep divisions become apparent: among those with incomes in the bottom third, just 23% reported improved finances, the lowest since 2014; in contrast, among those with incomes in the top third, 54% reported their finances had improved. Mentions of income gains fell to just 17% among those in the bottom third, compared with 44% in the top income third.
Blame the poor:
“Households with incomes in the bottom third reported significant setbacks,’’ Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said in the report.
“Presumably a new round of stimulus payments will reduce these financial hardships.’’
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Consumers expect a year-ahead inflation rate of 3.3%, the highest since July 2014.