The PJ Tatler

Consumer Confidence Cratered in June

In Poker terms on the economy, the president was looking for a 10 of diamonds: Not the strongest card, but one that fit his hand. But he just drew a 3 of clubs. Junk.

The preliminary reading for the consumer sentiment index dropped to 63.8 in July from 71.5 the month before, falling far short of expectations of an increase to 72.5, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

The survey’s barometer of current economic conditions fell to 76.3, the lowest since November 2009, from 82.0. The gauge of consumer expectations was also at its lowest since March 2009, tumbling to 55.8 from 64.8.

“Whenever the Expectations Index has been this low in the past, the economy has been in recession,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement. “Nonetheless, one month’s data is insufficient to signal a renewed downturn, particularly if a last-minute agreement on the debt ceiling results in a partial restoration of confidence.”

U.S. stocks cut gains immediately after the report, while Treasury prices pared losses and the euro fell to a New York session low against the dollar.

Confidence also fell in government economic policies, in parallel to the consumer confidence drop. And, S&P says it may cut the nation’s credit rating even if a debt ceiling deal is reached. Which makes more sense, actually, than keeping our rating aloft if we just pile on more debt without reining in spending. The past few years have been a wild spending binge. Raising the credit limit without cutting the actual spending won’t, in the end, fix the problem. S&P reveals that at least part of the president’s hand is indeed a bluff: When he says that we need a deal to avert a credit rating cut, he’s what you call lying. Or bluffing, if you prefer.