Consumer confidence dropped to a record low this month amid trade-war fears, Bank of America says
- Bank of America Merrill Lynch's US consumer confidence indicator fell below 50 this month, the lowest reading on record.
- It shows that consumers are rattled by the latest trade war escalation, BAML economists said.
- US consumers are increasingly important to the economic expansion, and there are already signs that they're spending less.
- Read more on Markets Insider.
Consumers are growing increasingly uneasy as the trade war rages on, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.The firm's US consumer confidence indicator dipped 3.8 points to 50.1, and even fell briefly below 50 this month, marking the lowest reading on record. Advertisement
"The consumer appears to be rattled by the latest escalation in the US-China trade war," Bank of America economists wrote in a note Wednesday. "The drop in confidence appears to be already having an impact on consumer demand."
The indicator's decline coincides with the latest round of tariffs on the final tranche of Chinese imports, which contains more consumer goods than other groups.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
As the trade war continues, US consumer sentiment is becoming an increasingly important indicator of how the economy is doing, and if the current expansion is likely to continue. At this late point in the cycle, a strong consumer and solid labor-market conditions are crucial variables.Read more: JPMorgan's investment-strategy chairman lays out 3 reasons why the US will avoid recession through 2020But if consumers stop spending it could lead the economy to decline. In August, the University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment index showed its largest monthly decline since Decmber 2012. There are already a few signs that lower consumer confidence is leading to less spending, the Bank of America economists wrote.Advertisement
The road ahead
If there isn't progress on the trade war front, consumer confidence might not improve. Bank of America's indicator measures both current and future expectations, and this month the current conditions indicator fell 3.6 points to 51.6, and the expectations indicator plummeted 3.9 points to a reading of 48.5, below the breakeven point of 50.
US businesses are also beginning to show signs of worry. According to a September UBS survey, more US business owners said that they'd stop hiring and investing in businesses if the trade war continues. Optimism among among small businesses hit a five-month low in August, and US companies slashed more than 10,000 jobs because of the trade war in the same month.Read more: The stock market is experiencing a jarring shift seen only twice in history, and not since the tech bubble. Here's where JPMorgan's quant guru says investors should look to capitalize.Advertisement
Still, while the consumer confidence indicator is down, Bank of America says the sentiment has not yet spilled over into respondents' attitudes on the labor market. One data point economists noted was the increased share of multiple job-holders, suggesting that while the labor market is tight, people continue to hold down multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Economists at Bank of America have been tracking US consumer confidence since 2018. While the indicator doesn't have enough data to show consumer confidence over a business cycle, it does match the latest round of trade war escalation, the economists wrote.Get the latest Bank of America stock price here.Advertisement
- Zomato announces 10 days of menstrual leave for all women employees – including transgender people
- Mukesh Ambani is now the world’s fourth-richest person after he beat Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault
- If you have a high risk tolerance — here are a few ‘aggressive’ investment bets to consider
- Karnataka is building a cycling map for Bengaluru by crowdsourcing inputs from city's cyclists
- Indian Medical Association says nearly 200 doctors have lost their lives to COVID-19