The Conference Board calculates this index by performing a random survey by phone of 5,000 households in the United States, selected because they represent the country as a whole. The questions in the survey ask the respondents how they feel about the economy as they look towards the next six months. Will there be more jobs available? Will they receive a raise?
The results of this questionnaire moved the Consumer Confidence Index from 47.4 in July to 54.1 in August, significantly beating the economists’ expectation of 48. Economists are calling this a major win for the economy, but to me it just looks like those in charge of the predictions got it wrong. If the expected August index was 55, we would see disappointed headlines rather than the exuberance expressed today and yesterday.
Consumer confidence becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy” in some ways and a feedback loop in others. Those who respond to the surveys with a favorable outlook cause the Index to move upwards, and the news of the index moving upward encourages businesses to start operating as if the economy is heading soon towards recovery.
But let’s keep this in perspective. While the economists are joyous about the Consumer Confidence Index’s jump, the index is significantly below the level one would consider “good.” According to CNN, we would need to see an index of 90 before the economy can be considered solid. We’re only at 54.1. We have a long way to go before jobs start appearing in the market and before people start spending more.