The latest economic reports suggest many U.S. consumers are nervous about the strength of the recovery, but auto dealers are seeing mixed signals in showrooms.
Consumer confidence fell sharply in June, the Conference Board research group said. Stock market indices are down. Almost two-thirds of Americans think a double-dip recession is likely, a StrategyOne survey found.
Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations at Sonic Automotive, is concerned about a double-dip recession, especially if U.S. government stimulus spending slows.
"I'm concerned that we got a false positive over the last six months," he says.
But Chris Lemley, president of Sentry Auto Group in Boston, says sales are up 40 percent this year.
"I don't see any signs of a double-dip recession," he says.
Here's a roundup of the news last week:
n Confidence: The Conference Board's index of U.S. consumer confidence fell to 52.9 in June, down almost 10 points from 62.7 in May but still above February's 46.4. The 1985 level is considered the baseline, of 100. The number of people planning to buy a car in the next six months fell below 2009 lows. Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's consumer research director, blamed uncertainty over jobs and the economy.
"Consumer confidence, which had posted three consecutive monthly gains and appeared to be gaining some traction, retreated sharply in June," she said. "Until the pace of job growth picks up, consumer confidence is not likely" to grow.
But the Conference Board's index, issued last week, sharply contradicts the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers released four days earlier. It reported consumer sentiment rising from 73.6 in May to 76, the highest level since January 2008.
n Jobs: The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in June, down from 9.7 percent in May. Temporary jobs for 225,000 U.S. Census workers expired, while the private sector added 83,000 jobs. The decline in the jobless rate was driven by discouraged workers dropping out of the job market.
n Fear of recession: StrategyOne's online survey of 1,050 adults June 25-27 found that 72 percent of consumers worry about Europe's economic problems crossing the Atlantic, and 65 percent think a double-dip U.S. recession is "likely." The survey also showed that 57 percent fear their family will run out of money in the next year, and only 36 percent see signs of recovery. c
Amy Wilson and Jamie LaReau contributed to this report