Monday, March 16, 2009

Confidence Game: Consumer, CEO and Investor Confidence March 2009 (Early)

This post combines the latest results of the Rueters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, the Conference Board’s Index of CEO Confidence and the State Street Global Markets Index of Investor Confidence indicators into a combined presentation that will run twice monthly as preliminary data is firmed.

These three indicators should disclose a clear picture of the overall sense of confidence (or lack thereof) on the part of consumers, businesses and investors as the current recessionary period develops.

The recent preliminary early release of the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers for March showed a continued slump for consumer sentiment with a reading of 56.6 and dropping 18.56% below the level seen in March 2008.

The Index of Consumer Expectations (a component of the Index of Leading Economic Indicators) increased to 53 remaining 11.81% below the result seen in March 2008.

As for the current circumstances, the Current Economic Conditions Index continued to decline falling to 62.3 or 26.01% below the result seen in March 2008.

As you can see from the chart below (click for larger), the consumer sentiment data is a pretty good indicator of recessions leaving the recent declines possibly predicting rough times ahead.

The latest quarterly results (Q4 2008) of The Conference Board’s CEO Confidence Index declined dramatically to a value of 24, the lowest reading in the history of the index.

The February release of the State Street Global Markets Index of Investor Confidence indicated that confidence for North American institutional investors increased 13% since January while European confidence declined 3.2% and Asian investor confidence declined 2.7% all resulting in an increase of 12.7% to the aggregate Global Investor Confidence Index which now rests .41% above the result seen last year.

Given that that the confidence indices purport to “measure investor confidence on a quantitative basis by analyzing the actual buying and selling patterns of institutional investors”, it’s interesting to consider the performance surrounding the 2001 recession and reflect on the performance seen more recently.

During the dot-com unwinding it appears that institutional investor confidence was largely unaffected even as the major market indices eroded substantially (DJI -37.9%, S&P 500 -48.2%, Nasdaq -78%).

But today, in the face of the tremendous headwinds coming from the housing decline and the mortgage-credit debacle, it appears that institutional investors are less stalwart.

Since August 2007, investor confidence has declined significantly led primarily by a material drop-off in the confidence of investors in North America.

The chart below (click for larger version) shows the Global Investor Confidence aggregate index.