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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — More American drivers feel optimistic about the U.S. economy, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Nearly 60 percent of drivers report having a positive outlook, compared to just 44 percent at this time last year.
This reflects an overall growth in consumer optimism, which reached an all-time high of 61 percent in March 2017.
Gas prices factor into consumer optimism, with 76 percent of drivers saying that gas prices affect their feelings about the economy and 83 percent of those ages 18 to 34 saying that gas prices affect their economic sentiment. This month, drivers report a median gas price of $2.35, a slight increase from the median price of $2.33 in April. Although gas prices are 15 cents higher this spring than they were last year, they are significantly less than the rises in May 2014 and 2013 ($3.69 and $3.53, respectively).
From the perspective of the gas pump, the annual spring transition to summer-blend fuel looks considerably different from previous years. Since 2000, prices have increased an average of 53 cents during this transition. But even with the slight price increase this month so far in 2017, gas prices are essentially unchanged from February, NACS said.
"High consumer optimism and still relatively low gas prices are welcome news to retailers as we approach the start of the 'summer-drive' season in two weeks," stated Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "These two factors — and the weather — affect summer travel and spending at convenience stores more than anything else."
Drivers in the South and the West are the most optimistic (at 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively), while only 50 percent of drivers in the Northeast report feeling optimistic about the state of the economy.