The Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) for the Fort Smith region edged higher for the second quarter, according to the report released July 10 by the Center for Business Research and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.
The Fort Smith MSA consumer sentiment index was 59.8, up slightly from the first quarter result of 59.3.
Dr. Kermit Kuehn of Fort Smith, center director, said the report revealed some differences from national results released by the University of Michigan (UM) for June. Kuehn said the Michigan study reported a 73.2 for June, 3.9 percent lower than March. Index scores below 100 reflect less optimism about the economy than scores above 100.
“Regional sentiment has remained more or less stable since last quarter,” he said. “However, consumers remain skeptical regarding future prospects for the economy.”
Arvest Bank president Craig Rivaldo concurred.
“After a rather difficult second quarter,” Rivaldo said, “one can find some encouragement in the fact that consumers have hung in there up to this point. Summer looks to be quite challenging again, so I wouldn’t be surprised if confidence will be further tested in the coming months.”
The report also outlined results for two sub-indices. The Index for Current Conditions (ICC), a measure of consumer attitudes about their current economic situations, increased 4.3 percent to 63.2 from 60.6. The Index for Consumer Expectations (ICE), which measures consumer feelings about future economic conditions, was lower, however, recording a 57.5.
Kuehn noted national consumers were noticeably less positive about their current personal finances than were regional respondents, largely explaining the divergence between national and regional results.
According to the report, regional consumer attitudes toward the national economy and prospects for jobs regionally remain negative, with over half of the respondents reporting negative sentiment on these items.
A detailed analysis of the entire 17-item survey distributed to 3,000 regional households will be published in the Fort Smith Regional Economic Outlook Report, a quarterly report sponsored by Arvest, which is expected to be released the second week of September.