The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rebounded modestly during November after five consecutive months of decline. The cumulative loss from May to October was almost 31 points. However, the composite CCI rose by 4.5 points during November to reclaim a small part of the ground lost during the summer and early fall.
With a November 2002 reading of 84.1 on the Conference Board's scale, on which average confidence during the year 1985 is equal to an index level of 100, the most recent composite CCI was 0.9% lower than during November 2001.
The "Present Situation" subindex of the CCI rose 0.4 points from October to November but was still 19.3% below the November 2001 level. The "Expectations" (defined as six months into the future) component of the CCI, however, continues to paint a much brighter picture and suggests that Americans believe that the worst of this downturn will soon be behind us. The Expectations subindex rose by 9% from October to November. And compared with the dark days of November 2001, the Expectations component has shown remarkable improvement, with the November 2002 level coming in at 14.4% more optimistic.
Confidence indexes for six of the nine regions in the nation recorded increases from October to November of this year. Double-digit over-the-month gains were recorded in the New England (+12.9%) and Middle Atlantic (+10.0%) regions. A surprisingly steep decline of 14.0% was recorded in the confidence of consumers in the East South Central group of states (Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee), with much smaller losses registered in the West North Central and Pacific Coast regions.
However, despite the November rebound in consumer spirits, the part of the Conference Board's survey that measures actual buying plans (during the upcoming six months) of American households continued to deteriorate. During November, 27.5% of households surveyed told interviewers that they planned to buy at least one type of major appliance during the upcoming six months. As recently as August, this figure stood at 31.3%. Similarly, home buying plans dropped from 4.5% to 2.9% of households from August to November. Auto purchase intentions dipped to 6.5% during November after reaching a high of 8.3% in July.