There was an odd disconnect in last week's latest UMichigan consumer confidence print, according to which US consumers were the most confident in 12 years as a result of soaring stocks, even as their 5 year inflation expectations tumbled to record lows, which is ironic because the only reason the market was higher is due to higher inflation expectations by traders. In other words, a total, and utterly confused, paradox.
Then moments ago, that "other" confidence index reported by the Conference Board, also printed at multi-year highs, surging from its November print of 109.4, and well above the 109 expected, to 113.7. This was the highest print since August 2001.
What drove the surge? What else: hope that Trump will make things better, to wit - the Expectations Index increased sharply from 94.4 to 105.5, even as the Present Situation Index decreased from 132.0 last month to 126.1. This was the biggest two month jump in expectations since December 2011.
"Consumer Confidence improved further in December, due solely to increasing Expectations which hit a 13-year high (Dec. 2003, 107.4)," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "The post-election surge in optimism for the economy, jobs and income prospects, as well as for stock prices which reached a 13-year high, was most pronounced among older consumers. Consumers' assessment of current conditions, which declined, still suggests that economic growth continued through the final months of 2016. Looking ahead to 2017, consumers' continued optimism will depend on whether or not their expectations are realized."
Meanwhile, reality was less pleasant: assessment of current conditions declined in December. Those saying business conditions are "good" decreased slightly from 29.7 percent to 29.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" increased from 15.2 percent to 17.3 percent.
Consumers' appraisal of the labor market was less positive than last month. Those stating jobs are "plentiful" declined from 27.8 percent to 26.9 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" increased from 21.2 percent to 22.5 percent.
Consumers' short-term outlook improved considerably in December. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased from 16.4 percent to 23.6 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen declined from 9.9 percent to 8.7 percent.
Consumers' outlook for the labor market also improved markedly. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 16.1 to 21.0 percent. However, those anticipating fewer jobs also increased, from 13.5 percent to 14.0 percent. The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase rose from 17.4 percent to 21.0 percent, while the proportion expecting a decrease fell moderately, from 9.2 percent to 8.6 percent.