EMU: EC Consumer Confidence Flash

Thu Jul 20 09:00:00 CDT 2017

Consensus Actual Previous
Level -2.0 -1.7 -1.3

According to the EU Commission's latest survey, consumer confidence surprised slightly on the upside in July. At a provisional minus 1.7, the flash index was 0.4 points below its final June reading but a little stronger than the market consensus. This was its first fall since February but leaves intact the trend rise that began back in April 2016.

In fact, despite July's dip, confidence is still at its second highest level since the Great Recession and even further above its long-run average (minus 12.6).

Eurozone retail sales have been loosely following the improvement in consumer sentiment all year so today's outcome suggests that third quarter purchases started on a reasonably upbeat note. Even so, the drop in confidence makes for some limited downside risk to the Commission's July economic sentiment index, due for release next week.

Compiled by the European Commission, the flash consumer confidence index is a broad measure of consumer sentiment. It is based on monthly surveys of consumers from all the European Union countries. The survey probes into consumers' perceptions towards their past and expected future financial conditions, as well as their feel of the economy overall. This includes topics such as major purchase intentions for the next year, savings intentions, home improvements, purchase of a car, prices and unemployment, among others. This flash measure is based on only partial data and provides an early guide to the final index, published around a week later as part of the full Economic Sentiment survey.

The pattern in consumer attitudes can be a major influence on stock and bond markets. Consumer spending drives the lion’s share of the economy, and if the consumer is not confident, she will not be willing to pull out the big bucks. This Consumer Confidence survey offers key confidence data across the European Union and the European Monetary Union. Consumer confidence impacts consumer spending which affects economic growth. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth.

Since consumer spending accounts for such a large portion of the economy, the markets are always eager to know what consumers are up to and how they might behave in the near future. The more confident consumers are about the economy and their own personal finances, the more likely they are to spend. The index is a broad measure of consumer confidence in the EU members and because of its coverage of all the EU countries it is highly regarded in the financial markets as a good indicator of the mood of consumers in each country. It is also normally a good indicator of quarterly GDP.

Data are available for each country and are aggregated for both the EMU and EU. The data are seasonally adjusted and defined as the difference (in percentage points of total answers) between positive and negative answers. The survey is conducted by the European Commission rather than Eurostat, the compiler of most other EMU data and measures consumer confidence on a scale of -100 to 100, with -100 indicating extreme lack of confidence, 100 indicating full confidence and 0 indicating a neutral opinion. The long-term average of the series is around -14.