As Gas Prices Fall, Consumer Optimism Rises
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey has found that consumers are more optimistic about the economy as gas prices recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in late summer.
Americans said that they have seen gas prices fall 9 cents to $2.50 per gallon over the past month, and 24 percent expect prices to continue to fall this month, higher than the number who normally say gas prices will decrease this time of the year.
In October 2016, only 11 percent of Americans said they thought gas prices would decline that month.
This sentiment is particularly strong in the South — the region most impacted by the hurricanes. A third of Southern gas purchasers said they believe prices will drop in the next 30 days, the survey found.
According to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, lower gas prices have boosted consumer optimism over the economy.
Consumer optimism jumped seven points to 61 percent from September's reading of 54 percent, the highest level recorded since March. Men are significantly more optimistic than women (68 percent vs. 56 percent, respectively) but there are no significant differences by age group.
Consumer optimism is strongest in the South (64 percent) and Northeast (64 percent), and slightly weaker in the Midwest (59 percent) and West (58 percent).
Overall, three in four consumers said that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy and that is particularly true among younger consumers.
Specifically, nearly nine in 10 Americans (87 percent) ages 18 to 34 said that gas prices affect their economic confidence. Similarly, the drop in prices also affects their spending: Thirty-seven percent of this age group said they will drive more this month and 24 percent said they will spend more this month than last month.
"Sales at convenience stores are directly tied to the economy, fuel prices and the weather. The return of consumer confidence is great news as we start the fourth quarter of 2017," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.
The survey, conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland, surveyed 1,103 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed Oct. 3-6.