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Data: University of Michigan; Chart: Axios Visuals

Shoppers are outraged by how expensive some stuff is getting.

Why it matters: Consumer sentiment is important because it’s generally correlated with spending. Complaints about prices today and concerns about inflation down the road have caused the recovery in sentiment to stall.

Yes, but: Consumers are spending nonetheless. Retail sales unexpectedly grew strongly in June during a month when consumer prices rose by more than expected.

By the numbers: The University of Michigan’s widely followed consumer sentiment index unexpectedly tumbled to 80.8 in July from 85.5 in June.

  • Consumers have increasingly said they are worried about what inflation may look like one year and five years from now.
  • The report also found that consumers have never been more frustrated by the rising prices of homes, cars and durable goods like home appliances.
  • For these categories, a net 33% of consumers said it was a bad time to buy because prices were too high. This is an all-time record according to data going back to 1960.
  • The report found 71% of consumers thought it was a bad time to buy a home because prices were too high, while just 6% thought it was a good time to buy because prices were low.

What they’re saying: “Consumers' complaints about rising prices on homes, vehicles, and household durables has reached an all-time record,” Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, said in a statement.

  • “Purchase rates, however, have benefitted from record increases in accumulated savings and reserve funds.”
  • Indeed, some estimate that consumers accumulated $2.4 trillion in excess savings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that the consumers' pump is primed.

What to watch: Recent housing market data suggest sales volumes are about to turn up again, even as home prices continue to surge.

The bottom line: While higher prices will continue to have consumers incensed, hard spending data like retail sales confirm that they have the ability and willingness to make purchases anyway.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

How Hertz's big Tesla deal could boost EV adoption for everyone

Hertz is adding 100,000 Teslas to its rental fleet in a big push toward electrification. Photo: Hertz

People who are on the fence about buying an electric vehicle — or who can't afford one — can now rent one from Hertz.

Driving the news: The giant rental car company said Monday it is adding 100,000 Teslas to its fleet as the first step in a major shift toward electrification.

  • The order represents $4.2 billion in revenue for Tesla and is the carmaker's biggest-ever order, Bloomberg reported. Tesla's market cap reached $1 trillion following the deal.
  • The vehicles will account for more than 20% of Hertz's global fleet. And Hertz is also adding thousands of charging stations to its rental locations and hiring seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady to pitch EVs to consumers.

Why it matters: Broader availability of electric cars on rental lots could give the EV movement a needed boost by allowing cautious consumers a no-risk way to try before they buy.

The big picture: President Biden wants half of all new cars sold to be electric by 2030, and many carmakers are making the pledge to switch away from gasoline-powered vehicles by the middle of the next decade.

  • But consumer demand remains low, with battery-electric vehicles accounting for less than 5% of auto sales.

Yes, but: Consumers are getting more curious about plug-in models.

  • "Consumer confidence and acceptance of EVs is growing gradually," says Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox Automotive, adding that the opportunity to try one for a few days could snag more interest.
  • Surveys show that when people gain experience with new technologies, they become more accepting, she said.
  • For example, luxury car owners with driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control are much more accepting of autonomous vehicles than those who've never experienced the technology.

What they're saying: "Electric vehicles are now mainstream, and we've only just begun to see rising global demand and interest," Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

What's next: Consumers will be able to rent a Tesla Model 3 at Hertz airport and neighborhood locations in U.S. major markets and select cities in Europe starting in early November, with availability growing through 2022.

  • They'll have access to 3,000 Tesla Supercharger stations, besides the Hertz-installed chargers.

But EVs take some getting used to and features like regenerative braking could be confusing to drivers getting acclimated to their rental car late at night in an airport garage.

  • Hertz said it will offer help to educate customers about their EV through the Hertz mobile app.

Of note: Teslas are already popular on the peer-to-peer car rental site, Turo, CEO Andre Haddad tells Axios.

  • Some are booked by travelers and others by potential buyers looking for an extended test drive.
  • Many Turo hosts maintain small fleets of Teslas and EVs to keep up with demand.
Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."