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Consumer Confidence Improves, Producer Prices Jump

June 12, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Consumer confidence rebounded this month, with more people expecting increases in their wages, according to the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers released Friday..

The measure climbed to 94.6, up from a final reading in May of 90.7, which was the lowest in six months. The 4.3% month-to-month increase was far lower, however, than the 14.7% month-to-month gain at the same time last year.

Readings from consumers about current economic conditions, as well as their expectations for the future, also posted strong gains from May and a year earlier.

“The June gain was due to the most favorable personal financial prospects since 2007, with households expecting the largest wage gains since 2008,” said Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin. “Just as importantly, consumers expected the inflation rate to remain low over the foreseeable future."

He said the expectation of rising interest rates has caused consumers to view current rates as attractively low, but it has not yet prompted the belief that it would be better to borrow in advance of future increases.

“The development of borrow-in-advance rationales will critically depend on how consumers judge the pace of future rate hikes,” Curtin said. “Stabilizing consumer demand at the favorable levels now anticipated for the balance of 2015 would require a very slow pace of small rate hikes. Any resurgence in advance borrowing will require sizable expected increases in interest rates as well as continued strong income gains.”

Overall, the June figures are consistent with a 3% annual growth rate in real personal consumption expenditures during 2015, according to the survey’s analysis.

Producer Prices Post Biggest Increase Since May 2012

Meantime, a separate report from the U.S. Labor Department shows prices at the wholesale level in May increased the most in three years.

The 0.5% jump in the Producer Price Index from April was only the second monthly increase in the past seven months.

The May hike was led by higher prices for diesel, gasoline and jet fuel, while some food prices contributed as well, with egg prices leaping more than 50% and certain fish prices nearly doubling.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, the core PPI rose just 0.1%, after falling 0.2% in April.

Core inflation is up 0.6% over the past 12 months, down from a 0.8% pace reported at the start of the second quarter.

“Producer prices edged higher in May, easing concerns of further deflation in the second quarter,” said Stifel Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza. "However, given the extreme decline in prices over recent time, it will take more than a few stronger-than-expected monthly gains to reverse the negative trend in inflation. As much as the Federal Reserve remains committed to a 2% target, since 2011, price pressures have continued to evade that preferred level.”

She said that both the headline PPI and the Consumer Price Index remain firmly in negative territory, and pointed to a minimal rise in the personal consumption expenditures, saying the Fed will find it difficult to be reasonably confident in a near-term reversal in price pressures.

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