This past week we launched the Experian Consumer Expectation Index (CEI) and the latest figures show that U.S. consumers’ forward-looking view of the economy fluctuated dramatically during Q1 2011, reaching a three-year high of 96.8 for the week ending January 31, 2011, and then dropping substantially during February 2011 to reach pre-holiday 2010 levels. The CEI was at 90.5 for the 4 weeks ending May 2, 2011.
At the beginning of 2011, the economic outlook was very positive among consumers. However, rising gas prices and conflicting economic news have led to extreme fluctuations in consumers’ economic outlook. While economic expectation settles back to the steady state of the low 90s that we observed in 2010, consumers’ overall view of the economy has returned to one of cautious optimism.
Consumers’ overall view of the economy has returned to one of cautious optimism.
Online buyers continue positive edge
With the exception of September 2008 through June 2009, the CEI has shown that digital consumers have a more positive outlook on the economy than the U.S. population as a whole. One of the challenges of using Internet traffic data as a sole barometer of consumer economic sentiment is that in good times online retail traffic increases as consumers increase spending. In tougher times, however, online retail traffic also increases, as consumers leverage the Internet as a cost-savings tool.
One of the great features of the CEI is that we are able to combine data from other Experian Marketing Services assets. As such, data from Experian Hitwise showing visits to the top 500 retail sites with consumer expectation data reveals that, as of May 2011, moderate increases in both traffic and consumer economic outlook reinforce our viewpoint that after a period of strong positive outlook in Q1 2011, we’ve returned to the state of cautious optimism.
The Experian Consumer Expectation Index will be released monthly with additional insights in-between monthly updates.