Exclusive: Consumer confidence nears a record high in the U.S., but dips in China and Europe

January 16, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

The willingness of American shoppers to open their pocketbooks is what’s driving the country’s economy and minimizing the impact of the trade war. And while consumers in much of the world show signs of slowing down, American consumers are getting more confident.

The Conference Board’s Global Consumer Confidence Index for the U.S. inched up 2 points to 122 in the fourth quarter of 2019. That’s just under the record high of 123 that the U.S. achieved in the first quarter of 2018. An index reading at 100 or above is considered positive.

But as American consumers get more exuberant, the Global Consumer Confidence Index, an aggregate of measurements in 64 countries, was flat at 107 in the fourth quarter. In Europe, it fell 2 points to 86, and in Asia it was down 1 point, to 116. The index fell 2 points, to 112, in China.

“These numbers point at the fact that consumer spending is likely to remain a more important driver of growth in the U.S. than in China and the Euro area in 2020,” says Bart van Ark, chief economist at the Conference Board.

More confident American consumers add up to great news for the country’s economy. But lower confidence in continents like Asia and Europe can’t be written off by U.S. consumers or businesses. A drag in other parts of the world could eventually be felt at home.

The Conference Board’s Global Consumer Confidence Index, which goes back to 2005, is a separate index from the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index it uses as a measure of U.S. sentiment. Each has its own methodology, with the global index using a standardized approach across all the countries it measures.

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