GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians remained at 77 out of 100 in February further demonstrating the public’s positive view of the economy, according to a new University of Florida survey.
The index rose seven points last month, an unexpected increase considering the economic climate in Florida. That the index didn’t change dramatically after January’s increase is noteworthy.
“We had expected a correction to last month’s seven-point increase in Consumer Sentiment,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “A second month at this high level makes it much less likely that the increase for January was an aberration and more likely that consumers view the economy and their personal economic situation as having improved.”
McCarty said several factors are contributing to Floridians’ increased optimism, and at the top of the list is the bull market in stocks that are lifting portfolios. Another factor, McCarty said, is that those nearing retirement age whose 401(k) accounts were almost halved by the recession have mostly recovered those losses.
Work wages have shown steady improvement and the stimulus agreement, passed by Congress at the end of last year, is now appearing in workers’ paychecks, increasing optimism about personal finances, McCarty said. Inflation has remained in check, McCarty said, but high inflation could resurface by the summer. Gas prices have begun to rise again and are expected to keep rising, as are prices for basic food items like wheat and corn, McCarty said.
“At 77, the index represents a dramatic improvement over Consumer Sentiment for the past three years,” McCarty said. “The one exception was April 2010, when a confluence of tax rebates artificially lifted confidence. It fell in the following months as those programs ended and the Gulf oil spill raised pessimism. This month, the sustained higher level of confidence is more broadly based and is an indicator that consumers are seeing some stability in the overall economy.”