Economy Watch: Consumer, Investor Confidence Mixed at End of ’15

Consumers were a little more confident as 2015 drew to an end.

Consumers were a little more confident as 2015 drew to an end, but U.S. investors aren’t quite as sanguine, according to separate reports released on Tuesday. Both kinds of confidence are important to the health of the commercial and multifamily real estate markets. Confident consumers support retail leasing and, indirectly, industrial and office leasing. Confident investors acquire and upgrade commercial properties in anticipation of solid returns.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had decreased moderately in November, improved in December. The Index now stands at 96.5 (1985 = 100), up from 92.6 in November. The Present Situation Index increased from 110.9 last month to 115.3 in December, while the Expectations Index improved to 83.9 from 80.4 in November.

“As 2015 draws to a close, consumers’ assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market,” noted Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “Looking ahead to 2016, expectations regarding their financial outlook are mixed, but the optimists continue to outweigh the pessimists.”

State Street Global reported that its Investor Confidence Index (ICI) came in at 108.3, up one point from November, but the improved sentiment was among European and Asian investors, not those based in North America. The North American ICI dropped 5.9 points to 106.6.

“U.S. investors have been showing an appetite for risk for much of 2015, but have been increasingly risk averse into year-end as uncertainty about global growth, weak commodity prices and the beginning of the Fed tightening cycle have eroded confidence to take risk,” explained Ken Froot at State Street Associates, State Street Global Exchange’s research arm.