National Consumer Sentiment Flat; New York Dips; Sits at Breakeven Point
NYC, Upper Income, Men & Republicans Drop; Upstate Up this Month
Endless Winter Blankets Most Buying Plans; But Car Fever Heats Up; Gas & Food Worries off Historic Highs Still Affect More than Half
Loudonville, NY – The New York State Index of Consumer Sentiment decreased 1.2 points in February, while the nation’s Index increased 0.4 points, according to the latest poll by the Siena (College) Research Institute (SRI). At 76.3, New York’s overall Index of Consumer Sentiment is 5.3 points below the nation’s* Index of 81.6.
In February, buying plans were up for cars/trucks, 2.7 points to 14.1%. Buying plans were down for consumer electronics, 3.3 points to 28.6%, furniture, 5.6 points to 18.3%, homes, 1.4 points to 3.9%, and major home improvements, 1.6 points to 13.5%.
“The nation’s numbers were little changed this month, and here in New York we slipped ever so slightly,” according to Dr. Doug Lonnstrom, professor of statistics and finance at Siena College and SRI Founding Director. “Interestingly, our indices – overall, current and future – all are poised almost exactly on the absolute breakeven point at which optimism and pessimism balance. Collectively we are either at a crossroads waiting to discover an economic revival or demise, or perhaps this is the new condition in which we get used to things being neither good nor bad but rather simply what we are used to.
“Due in part to January’s stock market correction, this dark and difficult winter and little movement on the political/economic policy front, most demographic groups dropped in confidence this month with upper income, Republicans, New York City and Men leading the negative way.”
Each month since January 1999, the SRI survey establishes an Index for Consumer Sentiment for New York State consumers. This index allows a direct comparison of New Yorkers to all Americans (“the nation”) as surveyed by the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. The SRI survey measures current and future consumer sentiment, which combined provides the overall consumer sentiment. SRI also looks at confidence in New York State by region (metro New York City and Upstate), age, income, gender and party.
“Winter has frozen not only our water pipes, but also the buying pipeline for all major consumer goods with the one exception being cars and trucks. Intent to purchase homes, home improvements, furniture and especially consumer electronics are all down this month. Buoyed by a barrage of advertisements and incentives, a growing percentage of New Yorkers say they have caught the auto bug. Sales should increase if spring ever arrives.
“With gas prices low and steady for most of February, and despite concerns over weather’s impact on farms and livestock, concerns over the bite that those items take out of the monthly budget were largely unchanged in February. Both are down from this point a year ago but remain a problem for between half and sixty-five percent of New Yorkers,” Dr. Lonnstrom said.
Gas and Food Price Analysis
Fifty-one percent of all New Yorkers say that current gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition. Sixty-three percent of state residents indicate that the amount of money they spend on groceries is having either a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their finances. Forty-three percent of state residents say that both gasoline and food prices are having either a somewhat or very serious impact on their finances.
The SRI Index of Consumer Sentiment was conducted in February 2014 by random telephone calls to 623 New York State residents over the age of 18. As consumer sentiment is expressed as an index number developed after statistical calculations to a series of questions, “margin of error” does not apply. Buying plans, which are shown as a percentage based on answers to specific questions, do have a margin of error of + 3.9 points. For more information or comments, please call Dr. Doug Lonnstrom, at 518-783-2362. Survey cross-tabulations and buying plans can be found at www.siena.edu/sri/cci. SRI is an independent, non-partisan research institute. SRI subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Code of Professional Ethics and Practices.