Is the Worst Over for Consumer Pessimism?

Some 60% of consumers say they expect gas prices will increase in the coming 30 days.

Consumer pessimism related to gas prices and the economy remains high but did not increase in March, according to the results from the monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.

While 59% of U.S. consumers once again indicated that they are “very” or “somewhat” pessimistic about the economy, the percentage saying that they are “very pessimistic” about the economy seems to have peaked; 20% of consumers said that they were very pessimistic, compared to 23% the month prior. Pessimism about the economy remains highest in the West, with 27% of consumers saying that they were “very pessimistic.”

Because convenience stores sell 80% of the gasoline purchased in the country, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) conducts monthly surveys of gasoline customers to gauge their feelings related to gas prices, other fuels-related issues and the economy.

It is clear that gas prices are top of mind with consumers. More than nine of 10 consumers (91%) say that gas prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy, and nearly half of all consumers (47%) say that gas prices have a “great impact” impact in how they feel about the economy. Both numbers are new highs since NACS’ first survey, conducted in January 2013.

Meanwhile, it’s possible that consumers may also feel that the worst is over; 60% of consumers say that gas prices will be higher in the coming 30 days. While still a strong majority of consumers, this number is a decrease from the 62% recorded in the previous two months.

“Consumers are saying that gas prices are having a significant impact on their everyday activities,” said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. “The decline in gas prices over the past two weeks may provide a sliver of good news for the economy overall. The effect of the declining prices on consumers’ opinions about gas prices and the economy in general is a trend line that we will closely be watching.”

Beginning in January 2013, NACS conducts monthly surveys of gas consumers to learn their opinions on a variety of fuels-related issues. This latest survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC, with 801 gas consumers surveyed on March 5, 2013. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 3.46 at the 95% confidence interval and higher for subgroups. Summary results from this and previous surveys can be found at www.nacsonline.com/gasprices.

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