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Florida Consumer Sentiment Down in February

Consumer optimism among Florida residents dipped in February on views about personal finances and expectations over the national economy, UF economists said.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Following five consecutive monthly increases, consumer sentiment among Floridians dipped 2.1 points in March to 72, down from a revised figure of 74.1 in February. This decline contrasts with the national consumer sentiment, which increased 2.5 points.

“The drop in consumer sentiment was largely driven by Floridians' views on their personal financial situation a year from now, which plummeted sharply in March. Additionally, expectations about the country’s economy over the next year dropped as well. While we anticipated a slight increase in consumer sentiment rather than a reversal, the decline suggests that Floridians may be growing more concerned about future economic conditions,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

“This concern aligns with the higher-than-anticipated inflation observed in the first two months of the year, which prompted the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates steady and might prolong the need for rate cuts in the near future,” Sandoval added.  

Each of the five components that make up the index declined in March.

Current economic conditions

Opinions of personal financial situations now compared with a year ago fell slightly eight-tenths of a point from 60.6 to 59.8. Similarly, opinions regarding whether now is a good time to buy a major household item, like an appliance, decreased one point from 63.9 to 62.9. These downward readings were observed among all Floridians, except for people younger than 60, whose readings showed a positive change in both components, and people with an annual income under $50,000, whose readings showed a positive change in the latter.

Future economic conditions

Expectations of personal financial situations a year from now showed the steepest decline in this month’s reading, down 4.7 points from 88.4 to 83.7. These negative views were shared by all Floridians; however, they were particularly strong among women and people older than 60.

Outlooks of U.S. economic conditions over the next year dropped 2.3 points from 75.6 to 73.3.

Additionally, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years decreased 1.6 points from 82.1 to 80.5. These expectations were divided among sociodemographic groups, with people with an annual income under $50,000 expressing more-favorable views to the former, while women and people age 60 and older expressing more-favorable views to the latter.

“Looking ahead, though the downturn spans only a single month, it is worth watching as changes in sentiment could influence consumer spending patterns and overall economic activity in the months to come,” said Sandoval.

The UF study, conducted February 1 through March 29, reflects the responses of 426 individuals who were reached on cellphones and 301 individuals reached through an online panel, a total of 727 individuals, representing a demographic cross section of Florida. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

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