Mar 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

Consumer confidence hits its lowest level since January 2019

Data: CivicScience, Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer confidence has fallen over the past two weeks to its lowest level since January 2019, according to a reading that updates daily from Hamilton Place Strategies and data firm CivicScience.

Why it matters: The index's two-week average, provided first to Axios, dropped to 49.4, with the daily reading drifting even lower to 45.5 on Tuesday. Traditional data metrics are all lagging behind the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which is the primary driver of markets at the moment.

  • The Economic Sentiment Index is a “living” metric that tracks U.S. adults’ expectations for the economy going forward, as well as their feelings about current conditions for major purchases, CivicScience analysts say.

The big picture: Consumer confidence has clearly declined, but even as of Tuesday's weak level, it has not fallen off a cliff.

Go deeper: The looming global great recession

Go deeper

Coronavirus forces record-low business conditions

Data: New York Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals

The first piece of concrete data on the U.S. economy since the COVID-19 outbreak started to significantly impact U.S. firms was released Monday and the results were not good.

Driving the news: The New York Fed's Empire State business conditions index fell by a record 34.4 points this month to its lowest level since the financial crisis in 2009, based on surveys conducted March 2–10. Economists had expected a reading in the single digits.

Americans expect to spend stimulus money

Reproduced from CivicScience survey; Note: ±3 percentage point margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

The majority of respondents to the latest CivicScience poll, provided first to Axios, say they would spend a government stimulus payment on bills, necessities and treats, rather than saving or investing the money.

Why it matters: That is a plus for the economy, which is built on consumers spending, not saving, their money.

The growing coronavirus recession threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In just a matter of weeks, top economists and investment bank analysts have gone from expecting the coronavirus outbreak to have minimal impact on the U.S. economy to warning that an outright recession may be on the horizon.

What's happening: The spread of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., and the speed at which they are being discovered has set the table for the outbreak to have a larger and much costlier impact.