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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Lower fuel prices mean consumers have more cash to spend after filling up at the pump. But this has not translated into consumer optimism about the economy.
According to a new survey released by NACS, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, consumer optimism fell 3 percentage points in February to 44 percent, the lowest level since March 2015.
Millennials are the only group (52 percent) that feel positive about the U.S. economy. Those in the 50-plus age group are most pessimistic, with only 39 percent indicating confidence in the economy.
Surprisingly, the survey also revealed that lower gas prices are not translating into increased driving or spending. Just one in six consumers said they will drive more in the next month — the lowest level in three years. And just 21 percent of those surveyed said they will spend more this month, even with more cash in their pockets. Millennials are most likely to increase their driving (30 percent) and spending (36 percent).
“Consumers are very aware of lower gas prices, but it isn’t translating into positive feelings about the economy. We will be closely watching how the petroleum industry’s spring transition to summer-blend fuels could affect gas prices, consumer sentiment and spending over the next few months,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives.
Three in four Americans state gas prices are lower this month, the highest percentage noticing lower prices since December 2014. Two in three drivers think gas prices in the next 30 days will be the same or lower than they are now.
The NACS survey was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland from Feb. 2-5 and reflects the views of 1,100 gas consumers nationwide. NACS conducts these surveys monthly.
Alexandria-based NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing.