By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch
The numbers: A measure of consumer confidence fell in August to the lowest level since the start of the year, reflecting fresh worries about trade tensions with China and the possibility of a looming recession.
The consumer sentiment survey fell to 92.1 this month from 98.4 in July, according to a preliminary reading from the University Michigan. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a reading of 96.8.
What happened: A gauge that measures what consumers think about their own financial situation and the current health of the economy fell to 107.4 from 110.7, leaving it at a nearly two-year low.
Another measure that asks about expectations for the next six months declined to 82.3 from 90.5 — also a two-year bottom.
The Trump administration’s decision to apply tariffs to more Chinese imports and the Federal Reserve’s move to cut interest rates over worries about the economy made consumers more anxious, said Richard Curtin, chief economist of the survey.
Big picture: By many measures the U.S. economy still appears quite stable, but the worsening trade fight with China has hurt manufacturers and exporters, unnerved investors and put central bankers on edge. The Fed cut interest rates last month as an “insurance” policy against recession and it’s likely to do so again in September.
That hasn’t been enough to soothe investors, who dumped stocks this week and drove down the yield on U.S. Treasurys to stunningly low levels.
So far consumers haven’t cut back spending even as their worries grow. But waning confidence could cause them to do so in the months ahead, potentially weakening the economy. Consumer spending represents about 70% of U.S. economic activity.
What they are saying? “The main takeaway for consumers from the first cut in interest rates in a decade was to increase apprehensions about a possible recession,’ Curtin said.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.20% and S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.18% rose in Friday trading. The 10-year Treasury yield /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -0.09% edged up to 1.55%.