Summer Lethargy for US Consumer Confidence

21 July 2005

The curiously named Consumer Comfort Index - a weekly yardstick of US shoppers' confidence, jointly produced by ABC News and the Washington Post - suggests that Joe and Josephine Public are beset by summer lethargy.

The CCI is a composite of three questions that measure ratings of (1) respondents' personal finances; (2) the national economy; and (3) the buying climate. It represents a rolling average based on telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly selected adults over the previous four-week period.

This week's index snoozes at minus 9, two points above last week, identical to the week before that, and in the same ballpark as the average reading for the year to date: minus 12. Pretty close, in fact, to the index's 19-year average.

Nonetheless, it is a marked improvement on the 2005 spring average when the index dived to minus 19.

Deep into vacation season, consumer confidence reflects the nation's conflicting economic trends. Gasoline prices have moved inexorably upward over the past six weeks, reaching a national average of $2.36 (€1.97; £1.36) per gallon, the Energy Information Administration reported Tuesday. Conversely, unemployment is down and consumer prices were flat last month.

Around six in 10 Americans rated the economy negatively in the current survey, mirroring the data gathered at the start of the year.

However, 60% of respondents were more sanguine about their personal financial situations, while slightly more than one third (36%) believe the present to be a good time to buy needed merchandise, similar to the 2005 average.

Across its nineteen-year history the CCI (scaled from minus 100 to plus 100) has averaged minus 9, ranging from a high of 38 in January 2000 to a low of minus 50 in February 1992.

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff