Utah consumer confidence flat during July

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 5:59 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Consumer confidence in Utah remained relatively steady in the month of July, according to a new report.

The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index fell 3.1 percent to 76.7 for the month, still 10.8 points higher than the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index of 65.9 — which rose 3.2 points from last month.

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index increased slightly — up 0.5 percent from May to June. Since June 2011, the index has risen 3.3 percent while the national CPI — an aggregation of all prices throughout the nation — increased 1.7 percent.

Analysts predict that the sluggishness that has pervaded the state and U.S. economies since the beginning of the year will likely persist for the foreseeable future.

“For the next several months, things are going to continue to be relatively flat in terms of overall consumer confidence,” said Randy Shumway, chief executive officer of Salt Lake City-based research firm The Cicero Group. He added that confidence might improve following the upcoming presidential election in November.

Meanwhile, he said the decrease in the CAI from June to July was within the margin of error, which highlights how downbeat economic news over the last four to six weeks has had little effect on consumer confidence locally.

“Utahns remain more optimistic than the rest of the country, as statewide employment growth buoys consumer attitudes,” he said. “The economy and demand are stronger in Utah than the rest of the United States.”

The state added 32,000 new jobs over past 12 months, he added. However, Shumway said Utah consumers were slightly less confident in both present and future economic conditions in July.

The Zions Bank Present Situation Index — a measurement of confidence in current business and employment conditions — decreased 2.4 points in July, compared to a 0.4 point decrease nationally.

“Consumer sentiment regarding the current availability of employment opportunities was unchanged this month, but the proportion of consumers who view current business conditions negatively increased nearly 5 percentage points to 20 percent,” he said.

The Zions Bank Expectations Index — a gauge of consumer confidence in the economy six months from now — decreased 3.5 points last month, compared to 5.7 point increase nationally. Utah consumers feel less optimistic about general business conditions and employment in the next six months than they did a month ago, but are more optimistic that their income will increase by 2013, Shumway said.

He added that prices at the gasoline pump in Utah have begun to fall in recent weeks and should continue to decline into August. That decrease in transportation costs should have an impact on consumer sentiment going forward.

Overall, the state economy is progressing — albeit very slowly — he said, and that trend should continue in the months ahead.

“Utah is fundamentally doing better than the rest of the United States,” Shumway said. “There are positive indicators and some that are holding us back. We are going to continue to see slow, but uneven recovery over the next six to 12 months.”

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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