Floridians' consumer confidence sinks amid fears of stalled national economy

Consumer ConfidenceConsumersEconomic IndicatorFinanceBusinessReligion and BeliefUniversity of Florida

Floridians' consumer confidence sank in June amid new worries that the economy was slowing or even stalling, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

Overall consumer confidence dropped four points this month to 74, after jumping to 78 in May as gas prices began to plummet, the survey found.

"In June Floridians reversed their optimism about their future finances," said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. "The decline was across age and income groups and did not reflect a specific policy change."

For the first time since February, all five components used to measure consumer confidence fell in the state, he said. Floridians didn't feel they were better off financially now than they were a year ago, while their expectations that their personal finances would improve in a year plummeted 10 points to 86.

"Respondents were also glum in their assessment of broader issues," McCarty added.

Their confidence in the national economy over the coming year dropped three points to 73, while their trust in the national economy's prospects for the next five years fell four points to 84, he said.

Partly that was because the U.S. unemployment rate went up in June and job creation was tepid, McCarty said. It also didn't help that the Federal Reserve released data earlier this month that showed the average American's net worth plummeted to what it had been in the 1990s, McCarty said.

The discouraging news may have helped erase the optimism Floridians felt after gas prices fell, McCarty said.

Result: Floridians' confidence in whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket consumer items, such as televisions and automobiles, sank in June, he added.

The state’s plummeting consumer confidence didn't surprise Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, an economics professor who directs the Center of Economic Research at Florida International University.

"I'm surprised it is as high as it is," said Salazar-Carrillo, adding "I think the economy took a wrong turn at the beginning of the year. Consumers are not getting jobs or they are working fewer hours."

That has eroded many Floridians’ confidence in spending money – if they have the cash to spend, he said. Many have already maxed out their credit cards, Salazar-Carrillo said.

The continued turmoil in Europe over debit also is not convincing many Floridians to believe in a recovering – and stable -- economy, Salazar-Carrillo added.

Right now, the Florida economy seems to be slowing just like it did last summer before it revved up in late 2011, said William B. Stronge, an economics professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University.

Also adding to the anxiety of some Floridians: “The stock markets has been kind of volatile,” he said.

UF surveyed 409 Floridians between June 12 to 21. The index is bench marked to 1966, so a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.

dgehrke@tribune.com, 954-356-4404 or Twitter @donnagehrke

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