The US consumer becomes more and more pessimistic, according to the Conference Board survey. Indeed, the headline confidence index dropped unexpectedly to 39.80 in October from 46.40 in September, the lowest level since March 2009, when the US was in a very deep recession. Markets had expected a slight increase, which was suggested by the Michigan measure of consumer sentiment. The details of the report didn’t contain some glimmers of hope. Indeed, both the current assessment and the expectations of consumers collapsed. The assessment of the employment conditions deteriorated too, which is a bit counterintuitive following a better September payrolls report. However, given the very different message from the Conference board measure and the Michigan, but also the weekly Bloomberg consumer comfort index, the Conference board report might be an outlier, maybe due to some statistical issues (seasonal adjustment). So, it will be interesting to see the consumer confidence reports of November.
The Richmond Fed manufacturing survey was a mixed bag, but it surely didn’t confirm the strong reading of the Philly Fed survey. The headline, overall business conditions index stabilized at -6 in October, while an improvement to 1 was expected. The details were a bit mixed. Shipments index fell to -6 (from -2), but new orders (-5 from -17), order backlog (-15 from -23), capacity utilization (-4 from -11) and vendor lead time (2 from -2). So, while a number of indices improved, they remained below the zero boom/bust level. The labour market indicators were mixed. Overall, the report is inconclusive, but its contrast with the Philly Fed means that optimism about the ISM should be tempered a bit.