California consumer confidence at a 5-year high

The California Composite Index of Consumer Confidence increased to 94.2 in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the second quarter revised reading of 89, according to Chapman University. Consumer confidence has been increasing steadily since hitting a low of 57.6 in the second quarter of 2008 and has been hovering between readings of 80 and 90 since the first quarter of 2010. The current reading of 94.2 is the highest overall consumer confidence since the beginning of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. An index level below 100, however, reflects a higher percentage of pessimistic consumers versus those who are optimistic.

The California Composite Index is generated based on three indices: Consumers’ outlook on current and future economic conditions, and an index measuring consumers’ spending plan.

The current economic conditions index increased from a revised May reading of 80.9 to 86.8 in August 2012. The index measuring future economic conditions increased significantly to a reading of 105.6 in August 2012 from a revised reading of 93.6 in May. Recent improvement in the job market positively affected consumers’ assessment of the current economic conditions and the outlook about future economic activity.

The index measuring consumers’ planned spending on big-ticket items, however, decreased substantially from the revised May reading of 96.0. The decline in this index in August 2012 to a reading of 86.1 may be due to high and volatile gasoline prices. Higher gas prices are reducing consumers’ disposable income and negatively affecting consumers’ planned spending.