U.S. consumers felt less optimistic about the economy and increasingly worried about accelerated price growth, diminishing their chances of recovery.
The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell to 80.8 from a reading of 85.5 in the previous month, removed the glow of data released earlier Friday, showing a recovery in retail sales in June, driven by strong demand in e-shops and clothing outlets. and restaurants.
“Instead of creating new jobs, stopping and abolishing the accelerated inflation rate has now become a major concern,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist for university consumer research.
Customers face “sticker shock“About a wide range of goods, from chicken to used cars. Consumer price index jumped 5.4 percent in June from a year ago, 13 years, after a 5 percent increase the previous month. Wholesale prices have also risen, indicating rising costs for consumers. The producer price index rose 7.3 percent last month, the highest annual growth since at least 2010.
Federal Reserve officials have backed forecasts that rising inflation will be short-lived, but some lawmakers say the central bank and the Biden administration underestimate the risks that inflation poses to economic recovery.
During a hearing in Congress this week, Fed Chairman Jay Powell pushed back against suggestions that the central bank was complacent, assuring lawmakers that it would be prepared to respond if inflation exceeded its expectations.
“I know people are very worried about inflation,” Powell said. “We all hear it loud and clear. . . it really goes through the economy and through every business. “
A survey of consumer sentiment revealed a record level of complaints about rising house, vehicle and durable goods prices, prompting the index to fall to its lowest level since late February.
Respondents estimated an inflation rate of 4.8 percent in the year ahead, the biggest outlook since August 2008, compared to 4.2 percent in June.
“Inflation has put additional pressure on living standards, especially on low- and middle-income households, and has led to delays in large discretionary purchases, especially among higher-income households,” Curtin said.
Economists are closely monitoring sales trends to determine whether consumers will now rush to buy goods to move to future price increases or use their money instead to create savings or repay debt.
Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Friday showed retail sales rose 0.6 percent from the previous month, shattering expectations for a 0.4 percent drop, according to a Reuters economist survey.
Retail consumption has slowed in recent months following a rush of purchases earlier this year. In May, sales fell 1.7 percent, while strengthening incentives from federal stimulants waned.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, warned that inflation may have “masked” the weakness of actual sales activity.
Still, consumers have shown a willingness to spend, with high demand for goods, while many have booked hotel rooms and tickets for sporting events now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in almost every part of the United States. Spending on services, such as travel accommodation, is not included in retail data.
“Strong U.S. retail sales in June do not indicate a decline in consumer appetite to spend on physical things, despite the reopening of the economy, providing a wider range of options, such as entertainment and hospitality,” said James Knightley, ING’s chief international economist.
Last month, the National Retail Federation raised its sales forecast for this year, forecasting annual growth of 10.5 to 13.5 percent from 2020. It had previously forecast growth of 6.5 percent.
A June retail report showed food services, including restaurants and bars, continued to recover with a 2.3 percent month-on-month increase. Electronics and appliances, groceries, gas stations, department stores and drugstores also generated stronger sales. Sales at car dealerships, furniture stores and home and garden centers fell.
Excluding fuel, retail sales were up 0.4 percent from May, down 1.9 percent from the previous month.