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Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin
Consumer confidence rebounded in March to 98.4 from last month’s 93.8, slightly above the average of 97.2 recorded in the past 26 months. The March gain in the Sentiment Index was entirely due to households with incomes in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution, posting a gain of +7.1 Index-points, while households with incomes in the top third fell by 1.1 Index-points. Middle and lower income households more frequently reported income gains than last month, although income gains were still widespread among upper income households. Indeed, the last time a larger proportion of households reported income gains was in 1966. Rising incomes were accompanied by lower expected year-ahead inflation rates, resulting in more favorable real income expectations (see the chart). Moreover, all income groups voiced more favorable growth prospects for the overall economy. While no further decline in interest rate expectations was recorded in March, the data suggest that consumers anticipated additional increases in 2019. Finally, it should be noted that too few interviews were conducted following the summary release of the Mueller report to have any impact on the March data; if there is any, it may affect the April data. Overall, the data do not indicate an emerging recession but point toward slightly lower unit sales of vehicles and homes during the year ahead.