Consumer confidence drops to lowest level since September 2017

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Yahoo Finance

Consumer confidence is on the decline.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index tumbled to 121.5 in June, dropping from a downwardly revised reading of 131.3 in May and snapping three consecutive months of improvements.

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June’s results missed consensus expectations for a reading of 131.0, according to Bloomberg-compiled data, and marked the lowest level in nearly two years.

Indices tracking consumers’ assessments of current and future business conditions also sharply declined in June, the Conference Board reported. The Present Situations Index fell 8.1 points to 162.6 in June, while the Expectations Index decreased 10.9 points to 94.1.

The Conference Board’s report comes amid mounting friction between the U.S. and some of its major trade partners. These ongoing geopolitical concerns and the uncertainty over their resolution rattled consumers in June, according to the Conference Board.

“The decrease in the Present Situation Index was driven by a less favorable assessment of business and labor market conditions,” Lynn Franco, senior direct of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence.”

“Although the Index remains at a high level, continued uncertainty could result in further volatility in the Index and, at some point, could even begin to diminish consumers’ confidence in the expansion,” Franco added.

According to the Conference Board, the percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve six months from now decreased by 3.3 percentage points in June to 18.1%. Those expecting business conditions to worsen rose 4.3 percentage points to 13.1%.

“It is a disappointing outcome given that expectations ought to have received a boost from the drop back in gasoline prices and renewed surge in the equity market back to record highs,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

However, the Conference Board’s steep decline in its June confidence index may be short-lived, according to other analysts.

The indices tracking consumers’ assessments of expectations and current conditions “are driven by different forces, with expectations responding to the stock market and gas prices, while current conditions tend to reflect the unemployment rate. So when both move sharply in the same month, it often indicates a response to other external forces,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, explained in a note.

Namely, the most recent survey encompassed part of the period from late May to early June during which the Trump administration threatened to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico. These plans were walked back on June 7.

“We're guessing that the Mexico tariff fiasco, which also triggered steep drops in business surveys conducted while the tariff threat was live, is responsible,” he said. “If we’re right, the confidence index will rebound strongly in July, unless the Osaka [G20] summit is a disaster and the president imposes tariffs on imported Chinese consumer goods.”

“For now, note that the index remains very high by historical standards even after this decline, and it is no threat to our view that consumers' spending will continue to rise at a solid pace,” he said.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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