UF Survey: Falling Gas Prices Restore Consumer Confidence In April
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Boosted by declining gasoline prices as OPEC countries agree to expand production, Floridians’ consumer confidence rebounded in April from a sharp drop in March, University of Florida economists report.
The preliminary index for April was 106, up from March’s index of 102. March’s eight-point drop represented the biggest one-month plunge in nearly 8½ years, said Chris McCarty, survey director with UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
“In March, people were probably reacting to perceptions of inflation due to the rising price of gasoline along with yet another rise in interest rates,” McCarty said. “April has seen gasoline prices decrease as the OPEC countries have agreed to increase output.
“Despite the volatility in the stock market, consumers are more confident in the financial health of the U.S. economy than they were last month,” he said. “Based on the results from the April survey, we would expect retail sales to remain relatively steady with no sign of a serious downturn in the near future.”
The April recovery was caused by people’s rising confidence in the short term health of the U.S. economy, the same component that dropped sharply in March, McCarty said.
The two components measuring consumers’ perceptions of their personal financial situation over the short and long term remained unchanged in March, at relatively high levels, he said.
UF economist Dave Denslow noted overall confidence is up three points from a year ago.
“Women and people with low incomes are much more optimistic about the national economy now than they were in April 1999, while men and the affluent have retained their very positive outlook,” he said. “Over the year, optimism has spread across demographic groups, partly because the job market is strong for just about everyone.”
The bureau conducts the Florida Consumer Attitude Survey monthly. Respondents are 18 or older and live in households telephoned randomly. The preliminary index for April was calculated from 443 responses. Numbers for prior months are based on about 1,000 residents. The margin of error for the index is 5 percent.
Consumer confidence is designed to help predict buying patterns by measuring consumers’ mood toward buying. Although other economic indicators also are predictors of buying patterns, consumer confidence tends to be available sooner than those indicators.
- Cathy Keen, email@example.com, (352) 392-0186
- Chris McCarty