The Conference Board’s composite Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) fell slightly in February from its record-high set during the first month of the new year. The CCI dropped by almost three points between January and February of this year to reach a level of 141.8 (1985=100). At this index reading, the CCI still stood 6.5% higher than during the second month of 1999.
Consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions fell by 1.1% between January and February, while expectations for the future (defined as six months out in this survey) faded by a more substantial 3.0% over the month. Nevertheless, the "expectations" sub-index of the CCI this February remained a very optimistic 11.7% higher than during the same month of 1999, while consumer’s assessment of current economic conditions was 1.9% healthier this February than during February 1999.
The CCIs for six of the nation’s nine regions recorded declines between January and February. The confidence measure for consumers in the East South Central (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky) region of the country fell by almost 5% over the month, following an unusually strong gain the month before. The confidence measure in the West South Central region was also off by about 5% between January and February. However confidence among households in the Rocky Mountain states bounced back during February after plunging the month before, and the CCI for the West North Central region also improved significantly over the month. The prevailing trend, nevertheless, was down.
On a much more positive note, special questions associated with the February confidence survey revealed that among the 5,000 households surveyed by the Conference Board, 4.9% indicated that they had plans to buy a home (new or existing) within the upcoming six months. This was up sharply from the 3.9-month-reading for the final month of 1999 and the first month of the new year, and was slightly above the 4.6-month level recorded during the lower-interest-rate environment of February 1999.The high point for home purchase plans was reached during March of last year, with 5.2% of households saying that they were likely to purchase a home in the near future. Purchasing plans for major appliances also improved during February, but was still lower than during most months of the past year. Auto purchase plans were marginally lower in February than during January, but significantly higher than over the final two months of 1999.