Low Gas Prices Not Enough to Rid Consumer Pessimism

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Low Gas Prices Not Enough to Rid Consumer Pessimism


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Despite national gas prices being at their lowest level since 1999, a majority of Americans remain pessimistic about the overall economy, according to a new NACS consumer survey.

Forty-seven percent of Americans say they are optimistic about the economy, a drop of one percentage point compared to a month ago and a whopping 10 percentage points lower than in January 2015, revealed NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Consumer attitudes toward the economy vary widely by age. Among those in the 18-to-34 millennial age group, 57 percent stated they are optimistic about the economy. However, those aged 50 and older are much less confident in the country’s economic prospects, with only 36 percent responding they are optimistic.

This optimism — or lack thereof — also translates to spending habits, as millennials are three times more likely than those in the 50-plus age group to spend more money in the next 30 days, NACS revealed.

Three-quarters of the 1,101 gas consumers surveyed in December said gas prices, now averaging less than $2 per gallon nationwide, impact their feelings about the economy, a 10-percentage-point drop vs. January 2014 when prices were nearly $1.50 higher per gallon.

“Over the past three years, rising or falling gas prices almost always have a direct impact on changes in consumer optimism about the economy. However, this link has weakened over the past three months, as broader concerns over world events and a dramatic swing in the stock market have dominated the news,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “Consumers certainly feel better at the pump — sales of both fuel gallons and in-store items have increased as gas prices have fallen, though broader concerns are tempering consumer enthusiasm.”

Alexandria-based NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier members that conduct business in nearly 50 countries.