Survey News: Some Good, Some Not

Don’t tell retail executives, but consumer confidence tumbled 9 percentage points in July. On the other hand, according to the National Retail Federation-Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi monthly executive opinion survey, the rose to its highest level since last September.

First for the encouraging news: The Retail Sector Performance Index (RSPI), from the National Retail Federation-Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, climbed more than five percentage points in July. The index, which measures retail executives’ evaluations of monthly sales, customer traffic, the average transaction per customer, employment, inventories, and a six-month-ahead sales outlook expectation, reached 55.4% in July, up from 50.2% in June. In addition, long-term optimism appears to be strong, as the RSPI July demand six-month outlook index for sales jumped to 62.5% from 56.3% in June.

“With the back-to-school season upon us and tax rebate checks reaching consumers,” National Retail Federation president/CEO Tracy Mullin said in a statement, “it appears there is good reason for optimism.”

But The Conference Board released its own, more gloomy take on consumer confidence. Consumer confidence fell nine percentage points in July from June. In addition, the Board’s expectations index plunged from 96.4 to 86.4, while the present-situation index dropped from 64.2 to 61.9.

Lynn Franco, The Conference Board’s consumer research center director, noted the rising level of unemployment and the sentiment that a turnaround in labor market conditions “is not around the corner.” p>