Consumers becoming more optimistic about economy

New York -- Experian Marketing Services said Monday that its Consumer Expectation Index shows an increasing optimism about the economy. According to the CEI, U.S. consumers’ forward-looking view of the economy is at its highest level since the onset of the recession. During the first half of 2012, the average CEI figure was 92.7, which is above the index’s average of the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured eight points above those for the first half of 2008 and one point over those for the first half of 2011.
 
The CEI figures for the first half of 2012 show confidence among consumers planning to buy a new home within the year at its highest level since the onset of the recession. During the first half of 2012, the average CEI figure was 100.4, which is above the index’s average for the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured 2.5 points above the first half of 2011. On a related topic, the CEI of those intending to refinance over the next 12 months was 4.3 index points above the first half of 2011, or 5% higher.

The same trend held true for consumers looking to buy or lease a new automobile, as the first half of 2012 showed the average CEI figure was 98.2, which is above the index’s average of the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured 4 index points above the first half of 2011.

According to Experian Marketing Services, as we head into the 2012 holiday season, numerous events and factors could affect consumer confidence, but the latest CEI figures indicate the potential for a strong seasonal performance for retailers. The CEI figure for the week of Sept. 3, 2012 (the most recent single week for which data is available) was 7.4 points higher than it was at the same point last year and higher than it has been heading into the holiday season since 2008.

Further, key consumer groups are even more optimistic. On Sept. 3, the CEI of those adults who made an online purchase in the past year was 2% higher than the national average and 8.1 points higher than the CEI recorded for online shoppers at this time during 2011. This holiday season also could be very good for brands and retailers with big-ticket items to sell, since the CEI among adults planning to make a big-ticket purchase hit 117.9 the week of Sept. 3, 2012, compared with 103.5 the same week in 2011 and 100.5 in 2010. In fact, a CEI above 100 indicates that consumers are more confident than they were during the base line period, which was the first half of 2004, years before the recession began.

Couple those figures with a 6.9 CEI point increase year over year among full-time-employed consumers and these appear to be good indicators heading into the holidays, as the CEI tends to have a seasonal peak around Christmas and the holiday time period.

“The figures are pointing to increased optimism as we head into the 2012 holiday season,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research, Experian Marketing Services.