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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumers are starting to shed some pessimism when it comes to the economy, and declining gas prices may be to thank.
According to the results from this month's NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, 54 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed in April said they remain pessimistic about the economy. However, that figure is the lowest percentage of consumer pessimism recorded this year.
In addition, only 17 percent of consumers said they are "very pessimistic" -- a continuous decline from 23 percent in February and 20 percent in March.
"Our surveys are showing that consumer optimism or pessimism is related to gas prices," said John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. "The actual price per gallon is less relevant to consumer sentiment than whether prices are rising or falling. And now that they are falling, people have a much better outlook on the economy, and that is certainly good news all around."
The survey also found that consumers are feeling less pressure concerning gas prices. Eighty-six percent of consumers said gas prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy, but that sentiment is also declining and is the lowest measured this year.
Only 38 percent of consumers said gas prices had a "great impact" on their feelings about the economy, the lowest percentage since January.
The latest NACS survey also looked at new fueling options as they become more prevalent in the marketplace. More than four in 10 consumers (42 percent) said they would be likely to consider using a diesel fuel-powered vehicle, with 10 percent saying they would be "very likely" to use diesel.
When it comes to diesel usage, there is a considerable gender gap, with 12 percent of men saying they would be "very likely to use diesel," compared to 7 percent of females.
"Prices and availability are likely factors in these results," Eichberger relayed. "While diesel engines generally get better performance per gallon, consumers still see that diesel fuel prices are higher than gas prices ($3.999 for diesel vs. $3.614 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, according to the Oil Price Information Service's April 8 weekly averages). Other factors are likely also at play, and we will be looking into those more closely in future surveys."
The Alexandria, Va.-based trade association began conducting the monthly surveys of gas consumers in January. Convenience stores sell 80 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States.