We hear consumer confidence hit a three-year high in February, at 70.4, according to the Conference Board. Guess this level looks a lot better coming up out of the basement than it did the last time it was visited in February 2008.
“”There is no evidence that the recent collapse in consumer confidence is going to turn around any time soon,” said Brian Bethune, senior economist at Global Insight, as quoted by the AP back then. Stories note at the time it was the worst confidence reading since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, and excluding that one, worst since 1993. So this level hasn’t been associated with “happy days” in the past.
Look, it’s better than heading lower, but it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest it’s a sign consumers are gearing up to unleash some wave of pent-up spending. Conference Board tries to put the best spin on it, but the overall damp mood can only be spruced up so much. The outfit says “consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions improved moderately in February.” What’s “moderately” mean?
Those claiming business conditions were good rose to 12.4% from 11.3%, while those saying conditions were bad held steady at 39.6%. Improving “moderately” seems to overstate it more than moderately. And here’s what passes as a “more positive” assessment of the labor market — those saying jobs are “plentiful” rose to 4.9% from 4.6%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” fell to 45.7% from 47%.
Feeling more confident yet, citizen?
Somewhat amusing to note (in a gallows humor sort of way) White House press secretary Dana Perino’s comments on the economic data of the day, which also featured a sharp drop in Case/Shiller’s home price index, and rising wholesale inflation gauges (sounds familiar).
“We’re in a softening period,” Perino said, as quoted by the AP in February 2008. “And the question is, how soft is it going to be and how steep is the downturn going to be?”
You don’t even want to know, Dana. You don’t even want to know.