TMLS market update for December; 2019

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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for January; 2020

New York, January 28, 2020…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® increased in January, following a moderate increase in December. The Index now stands at 131.6 (1985=100), up from 128.2 (an upward revision) in December. The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – increased from 170.5 to 175.3. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – increased from 100.0 last month to 102.5 this month.

“Consumer confidence increased in January, following a moderate advance in December, driven primarily by a more positive assessment of the current job market and increased optimism about future job prospects,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director, Economic Indicators, at The Conference Board. “Optimism about the labor market should continue to support confidence in the short-term and, as a result, consumers will continue driving growth and prevent the economy from slowing in early 2020.”

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was January 15.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in January. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased from 39.0 percent to 40.8 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased, from 11.0 percent to 10.4 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market also improved. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” increased from 46.5 percent to 49.0 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined, from 13.0 percent to 11.6 percent.

Consumers were also more optimistic about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months was virtually unchanged at 18.8 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen declined from 8.8 percent to 8.4 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was more upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 15.5 percent to 17.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined from 13.9 percent to 13.4 percent. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the percentage of consumers expecting an improvement declined from 22.7 percent to 22.0 percent, while the proportion expecting a decrease was virtually unchanged at 7.7 percent.

Source: January 2020 Consumer Confidence Survey®
The Conference Board

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National residential new home sales for December; 2019

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National new home housing starts for December; 2019

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Global Consumer Confidence Index; 4Q19

Global Consumer Confidence Unchanged
Lack of momentum suggests increasing concerns about the durability of global consumer spending in 2020

 Q4 2019 global consumer confidence was unchanged at 107, suggesting more optimistic than pessimistic consumers; however, out of 64 markets surveyed, 30 saw a decline in confidence
 Concerns about future job prospects, which had already increased in Q3 2019, have begun to weigh on consumer sentiment about personal finances and spending intentions
 While consumer confidence in North America and Asia-Pacific remains the highest, in China, Japan, and several Southeast Asian markets, confidence is under slightly greater strain
 Consumer confidence in the Euro Area is well below 100, but remained unchanged relative to previous quarters; Confidence declined in Germany, Italy and Spain, but improved in France

NEW YORK, NY, January 16, 2020…The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Index, conducted in collaboration with Nielsen, was unchanged in Q4 2019 at 107 (a reading of 100 or above is considered positive). The index has been relatively flat in recent quarters, despite hovering at historically high levels for more than a year.

“The continued lack of momentum in global consumer confidence raises concerns about the durability of consumer spending as a major source of growth in 2020,” says Bart van Ark, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “While The Conference Board projects global economic growth to improve slightly to 2.5 percent in 2020—up from 2.3 percent in 2019—we should not take it for granted that consumer spending will continue to prop up the economy. Increased investment, an improvement in manufacturing production and trade, and more productivity growth are critical elements of a growth recovery.”

Out of 64 markets surveyed, 30 of them (14 emerging and 16 mature) saw a decline in consumer confidence (see table below). This is a slight improvement from last quarter, when 33 markets saw a decline (14 emerging and 19 mature). However, confidence weakened in several larger economies (including China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey), offsetting gains in other regions.

Consumer confidence remains highest in Asia-Pacific and North America. However, while consumer confidence in the US modestly improved over the previous quarter, it weakened in several Asian markets, including those in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Consumer confidence in the Euro Area is well below 100 but remained unchanged relative to previous quarters. Confidence declined in Germany, Italy and Spain, but improved in France. Consumer confidence faces challenges in Latin America but has been strengthening in the Gulf Region.

Consumer Caution on the Rise
“Strong labor markets, rising wages, and low consumer price inflation supported consumer spending in 2019,” says Elizabeth Crofoot, Senior Economist, The Conference Board. “An intensification of concerns about job security and personal financial well-being, especially if combined with lingering geopolitical uncertainties, may erode consumers’ confidence in the economy and cause them to rein in their spending.”

Consumer concerns that the economy is in recession (in their market) have visibly increased in Asia-Pacific and Europe over the past year, but eased slightly in North America and Latin America. Labor markets are tightening in many economies, and the number of additional jobs created is slowing. This slower job growth is reflected in increasing consumer concerns about job prospects. Wages have not risen as rapidly as expected, and consumers, especially less affluent ones, are therefore slightly more concerned about personal finances. And while low inflation in most markets—but not all—makes this a good time to spend, such favorable conditions will not last forever.

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Conference Board Employment trends index for December; 2019

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) Declined in December
Moderate Employment Growth Still Expected in Early 2020

NEW YORK, January 13, 2020…The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) declined in December, following an increase in November. The index now stands at 109.68, down from 110.51 (an upward revision) in November. The decrease marks a 1.2 percent decline in the ETI over the past 12 months.

“The Employment Trends Index decreased in December and continues to be on a flat trend since the summer of 2018. In the current state of the labor market, a flat index is consistent with an ongoing labor market expansion. We expect job growth to remain solid and the labor market to continue tightening,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “In Friday’s job report, the broadest measure of labor market slack, known as the U6 rate, fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest level on record. Such a tight labor market is a growing obstacle for further economic growth, but not a big enough obstacle to derail the US economy from its two percent growth trajectory.”

December’s decline was fueled by negative contributions from five of the eight components. From the largest negative contributor to the smallest, these were: Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, the Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, the Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get,” Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, and Job Openings.

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Conference Board commentary on national labor market for 2020

January 10, 2020

Despite gradual slowing of job growth, labor market will still feel tight in 2020

Comment on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report
Frank Steemers, Associate Economist, The Conference Board

The US economy added 145,000 jobs in December, and previous months were revised down slightly. The unemployment rate remained at 3.5 percent. This month’s job growth was in line with The Conference Board’s view that the labor market appears to be in a healthy state.

Job creation was mainly concentrated in the services sector as well as in construction, while the decline of 12,000 jobs in manufacturing shows that this part of the economy is still weak. However, easing trade tensions between China and the US may help to further improve business confidence in 2020, as The Conference Board reported earlier this week.

With this month’s increase in employment, the labor market ended 2019 on solid footing. In 2019, the unemployment rate reached its lowest point since the late 1960s and job growth was strong with an average of 176,000 jobs added per month – just over 20 percent slower than the average of 223,000 in 2018. The labor market performance in 2019 should therefore be considered a significant achievement after an economic expansion of over 10 years.

While employment growth will somewhat moderate in 2020, the labor market will likely continue to further tighten as the working-age population is barely growing and labor force participation rates are only slowly increasing. Employers hiring blue-collar and manual services workers will have a harder time recruiting and retaining current employees. For these workers we also see strong wage acceleration, much faster than growth in the average hourly earnings which stagnated in 2019 at around 3.2 percent, and weakened this month to 2.9 percent. Slower wage growth for highly educated management and professional workers has held back average wage growth for all workers.

About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States.

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