The latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was released this morning based on data collected through March 16. The headline number of 125.6 was a sharp increase from the final reading of 116.1 for February, an upward revision from 114.8. Today's number was above the Investing.com consensus of 114.0.
Here is an excerpt from the Conference Board press release.
"Consumer confidence increased sharply in March to its highest level since December 2000 (Index, 128.6)," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved considerably. Consumers also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects. Thus, consumers feel current economic conditions have improved over the recent period, and their renewed optimism suggests the possibility of some upside to the prospects for economic growth in the coming months."
Putting the Latest Number in Context
The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end, we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference.
On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 91st percentile of all the monthly data points since June 1977, up from the 86th percentile the previous month.
For an additional perspective on consumer attitudes, see the most recent Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. Here is the chart from that post.
And finally, let's take a look at the correlation between consumer confidence and small business sentiment, the latter by way of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index. As the chart illustrates, the two have tracked one another fairly closely since the onset of the Financial Crisis, although a spread appeared in the second half of 2015 and continued into 2016.