A closely watched index that gauges U.S. consumer sentiment beat the predictions of economists and hit a six-month high in the first half of September.
The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose to 78.9, a jump up from 74.1 and better than various forecasts that predicted the reading would be between 75 and 75.9. While the reading was 22 points below the pre-pandemic high seen in February, it was still the best tally for the index since March.
The index of U.S. #consumersentiment continued to climb back from the depths of the economic shutdown in April, the University of Michigan reported Friday. https://t.co/inQcJxZsJz pic.twitter.com/SUyA32TMj7
— Nick Ward (@N_Ward_CPA) September 21, 2020
Consumer spending drives the American economy, accounting for roughly 70% of gross domestic product. Improving consumer sentiment could bode well for the economy. Sentiment appears to be increasing as societal reopening initiatives continue and as optimism for a COVID-19 vaccine strengthens, analysts say. Still, they note, a surge in COVID cases and potential reinstitution of lockdown measures could send confidence – and spending – plummeting again.
Nonetheless, U.S. consumers are feeling better for the moment. The University of Michigan’s related gauge of current economic conditions improved from 82.9 in August to 87.5 in early September. The Index of Consumer Expectations increased to 73.5, beating August’s 68.5 tally and reaching the highest mark since March.
“Over the next several months, there are two factors that could cause volatile shifts and steep losses in consumer confidence: how the election is decided and the delays in obtaining vaccinations,” noted Richard Curtin, the economist who spearheads the survey.
Meanwhile, “global trade is rebounding much more quickly this year than it did after the 2008 financial crisis, lifting parts of the world economy and defying predictions the pandemic could send globalization into permanent retreat,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Global trade is rebounding much more quickly than it did after the 2008 financial crisis, lifting parts of the world economy—like China, whose share of global-merchandise trade jumped from 13.6% in Q4 last year to 17.2% in Q2.@_eunyoungjeong @TomFairlesshttps://t.co/feQ8jhz9U7
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) September 21, 2020
The Journal pointed to an analysis from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank, that revealed that even though trade was below pre-pandemic levels it had recovered about half of 2020’s historic loss by June.
The WSJ report also noted that new export orders were growing in 14 of 38 economies in August – a finding determined by research firm IHS Markit. That compared with just four in June. “Others were trending in the right direction and could start seeing growth soon,” the Journal reported.
Again, however, analysts noted that a potential surge in coronavirus cases and related shutdowns could derail progress.