Consumer Sentiment Tumbles in NACS Survey

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Following a positive surge in July, consumer optimism has plummeted in August despite gas prices falling more than 15 cents over the past month.

Thirty-nine percent of consumers say they are optimistic about the economy, a sharp drop from 46 percent last month, according to the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, which examines how gas prices affect consumer sentiment. The 7-point decline marks the sharpest drop since NACS began its tracking in January 2013.

Consumers aged 50 and older are the least optimistic, with only around one in three, or 35 percent, expressing optimism. 

"The dramatic swings in consumer optimism over the past two months clearly show that sentiment remains fragile," said Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "A rise or fall in everyday expenses — like gas prices — is usually an accurate predictor of sentiment unless something significant occurs, and this month it is clear that the recent sharp drop in stock prices and concerns over world events shook up consumers."

Gas prices remain at the top of consumers' minds, with 39 percent saying they have a great impact on their feelings about the economy. This is a slight decrease from 41 percent who said the same in July.

Despite the decline in optimism, consumers don't expect things to necessarily get worse, NACS found. Less than half of consumers, or 47 percent, expect gas prices to be higher next month. This is a low for 2014 and a sharp drop from the 64 percent who said the same last month.

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