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Consumer Confidence Measures Fall While Gas Prices Are Flat

American consumers seem to get that the current economy is about as good as it’s going to get, according the latest research from the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers and The Conference Board. Both groups’ readings of consumer confidence softened in October.

UM’s Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 87.2 in the final October reading, down from 91.2 in September and even softer than the 87.7 mid-month index. UM’s Expectations Index fell even more, down to 76.8 last month from 82.7 in September. While consumers expect inflation will remain low for years to come and the economy to remain strong enough to maintain current employment trends, more than half now anticipate an economic downturn will occur sometime in the next five years. It was the first time in two years that a majority of those surveyed expect a downturn.

“While this may simply reflect a temporary bout of uncertainty caused by the election, consumers have also recognized the lows in inflation, unemployment and interest rates cannot last forever,” said Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index also fell, down nearly 5% to 98.6 from 103.5 in September. Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Board, said “Overall, sentiment is that the economy will continue to expand in the near term, but at a moderate pace.

Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have plateaued the past month, running in the $2.20 to $2.23 average per gallon of regular range for the past three weeks. The average on Sunday, November 6, was $2.219, up half a cent from a week ago. And in a clearer indication that the stimulus of lower gas prices might be at an end, for the past three weeks average prices have been running slightly above prices seen a year ago, the first time that has happened since prices began to plunge mid-2014.

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