The gauge of current conditions rose to 115.1 from 110.5 in the previous month and expectations subindex went up to 90.2 from 86.3. Inflation expectations remained steady at 2.7 percent next year, and 2.5 percent in five years even in a wake of stronger wage growth.
Stock market gyrations were dominated by rising incomes, employment growth, and by net favorable perceptions of the tax reforms. Indeed, when asked to identify any recent economic news they had heard, negative references to stock prices were spontaneously cited by just 6% of all consumers. In contrast, favorable references to government policies were cited by 35% in February, unchanged from January, and the highest level recorded in more than a half century. In addition, the largest proportion of households reported an improved financial situation since 2000, and expected larger income gains during the year ahead. To be sure, higher interest rates during the year ahead were expected by the highest proportion of consumers since August 2005.
Consumers also anticipated a slightly higher inflation rate, although the year-ahead inflation rate has remained relatively low and unchanged for the past three months. Purchase plans have been transformed from the attraction of deeply discounted prices and interest rates that outweighed economic uncertainty, to being based on a sense of greater income and job security as the fewest consumers in decades mentioned the favorable impact of low prices and interest rates. Overall, the data signal an expected gain of 2.9% in real personal consumption expenditures during 2018.