Foodservice Equipment Reports

Consumer Confidence Measures Mixed In August; Gas Prices May Rise On Syria Fears

The two major indicators of consumer confidence reported mixed results in their final August indexes, though both remain at levels not seen since the beginning of the Great Recession. Meanwhile, gasoline prices are expected to rise as fears about the impact of a pending U.S. attack on Syria for the use of chemical weapons drives up oil prices.

The Consumer Sentiment Index from Thomson Reuters/ University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers fell three points in the final August measure to 82.1. The index remains 10.5% ahead of August a year ago. The research group’s Expectations and Current Situation Indexes also fell.

Over at The Conference Board, the Consumer Confidence Index rose slightly to 81.5 in August from 81 in July. The Conference Board’s Expectations Index also rose slightly, but the Present Situation Index registered a moderate decline.

The cut-off for the Conference Board’s survey is more than a week earlier than the final UM survey, which may explain the difference in direction. The UM preliminary Consumer Sentiment reading for August, released mid-month, was more positive.

The situation in Syria is likely to lead to a spike in gasoline prices, which have been moderate during most of 2013, a factor which has helped foodservice sales. The average price for regular gas has risen more than five cents in the past week, during a time when prices typically fall. But crude oil and wholesale prices are up more than 10% during the past two weeks and are expected to continue to rise while Congress and the President discuss possible responses to Syria’s recent chemical attack. Still, as of Labor Day, average prices for regular gas were running more than 22 cents below those of a year ago.

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