Americans are starting to worry about higher gas prices.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index for March released Friday fell to 90, missing the expectation for 92.2, and hitting a five-month low.
The report’s gauge of expectations has been falling over the past year, and now cheap gas prices are something consumers no longer anticipate will linger.
In the release, the Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin said,
Consumer confidence eased in early March due to increased concerns about prospects for the economy as well as the expectation that gas prices would inch upward during the year ahead. All of the decline during the past year has been in the Expectations Index, which was due to a weakening outlook for the pace of growth in the national economy …
Overall, it would appear that consumers have accommodated slower economic growth as well as rising gas prices without an accompanying rise in uncertainty about their own personal financial situation.
Last month’s report showed that consumers’ view on their personal finances rose to a 10-year high, reflecting expectations for inflation to remain low. Inflation expectations rose in this latest report.
Crude oil prices have been rebounding over the past few weeks. On Thursday, West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose above $40 per barrel for the first time since December 7.
GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks prices nationwide, noted that prices spiked by the biggest amount this year earlier this week. Apart from oil prices, which have rallied nearly 50% over the last month, gas supply is falling as refiners undergo seasonal maintenance.