RBC CASH Index: U.S. Consumer Confidence Weak, But Ticks Up Slightly
New York, NY - Despite mounting job losses and a stock market spiraling toward a 12-year low, U.S. consumer sentiment edged up this month according to the most recent results of the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index. The survey, which measured the attitudes of 1,000 Americans earlier this week, found that consumer sentiment remained very low, but stable. As a result, the overall RBC CASH Index stands at 8.2 for March 2009, up slightly from 1.6 in February, the lowest level on record since the inception of the Index in 2002.
"Consumer confidence looks to be trying to find a bottom," said Larry Miller, managing director, RBC Capital Markets. "The March improvement taken together with the stabilization of spending intentions we've seen in our restaurant and other consumer surveys and in the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) may suggest the consumer has dialed back its spending to a level that is reflective of the current macroeconomic realities. Holding these levels will be key to restoring investor confidence."
The RBC CASH Index is a monthly national survey of consumer attitudes on the current and future state of local economies, personal finance situations, savings and confidence to make large investments. The Index is composed of four sub-indices: RBC Current Conditions Index; RBC Expectations Index; RBC Investment Index; and, RBC Jobs Index. The Index is benchmarked to a baseline of 100 assigned at its introduction in January 2002. This month's findings are based on a representative nationwide sample of 1,000 U.S. adults polled from March 5-9, 2009, by survey-based research company Ipsos Public Affairs. The margin of error was ±3.1 per cent.
Highlights of the survey results include:
- The RBC Current Conditions Index rallied to 14.8, up 13.2 points compared to February's 1.6 record-low level. Currently, 35 per cent of Americans rate their personal finances as weak, down from 39 per cent last month. Consumers' evaluations of the current state of their local economy also improved this month as 47 per cent of Americans (48 per cent) rated their local economy as weak, down from 54 per cent in February.
- Consumers' overall opinions regarding investing also edged up this month. The RBC Investment Index, which was at 17.6 in February, currently stands at 24.6. Most of the increase in investment confidence stems from improvements in consumers' financial conditions, although consumers are still anxious. And, despite the plunge in the value of the stock market, the number of Americans who believe it is a "bad time" to invest in the stock market held steady at 70 per cent this month.
- With unemployment rates creeping to their highest levels in two decades, the RBC Jobs Index dropped to an all-time low of 40.8, down from 42.3 in February. The decline in American's job security confidence is led by real experiences in job loss. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Americans say that they or someone in their close circle has lost their job in the past six months due to the economy, up from 62 per cent last month.
- Although still in negative territory, the RBC Expectations Index held steady in March, ticking up just 2.2 points to - 25.9, up from - 28.1 last month. This month, 31 per cent of Americans say they expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next six months, a decrease from 33 per cent in February. Confidence in the recovery of local economies is more mixed; one-in-three (30 per cent) consumers believe the local economy will strengthen in the next six months, nearly one in four (38 per cent) believe it will stay about the same and one in three (30 per cent) believe it will weaken.
The entire RBC CASH Index report can be viewed at: www.rbc.com/newsroom/rbc-cash-index.html
For more information on this press release, please contact:
Michael Gross, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs
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