The confidence boost reported by the Conference Board on Tuesday came despite rising coronavirus cases in some parts of the country and declining government support for companies and the unemployed.
Consumers also seem to ignore the greater uncertainties ahead of the November 3 presidential election and the signs of a slowdown in the economic recovery.
“While today’s data appears to be a fantastic result at first glance, we must remain cautious, given mixed evidence from other sources,” said James Knightley, ING’s chief international economist at New York.
The consumer confidence index calculated by the Conference Board rose 15.5 points in September to 101.8 points, the highest increase since April 2003.
Economists interviewed by Reuters predicted that the index would rise to 89.5 points. In February, the index was 132.6 points.
The increase in the index calculated by the Conference differs from the modest advance of the confidence index calculated by the University of Michigan. According to analysts, the increase in the Conference Board index was driven by higher-income households, which were less affected by unemployment during the pandemic.
“The high level of confidence reflects the resumption of economic activities, but also the success of protection policies against the impact of lost activities. This is not the time to open the gates. It highlights the smaller impact of the recession, “said Steve Blitz, chief economist at TS Lombard in New York.
A separate report released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday showed that the trade in goods deficit widened in August, with imports rising as firms replenished their depleted stocks at the start of the pandemic.
This did not change expectations of a record GDP advance in the third quarter, after economic output collapsed between April and June, mostly after 1947.
The trade deficit in goods rose 3.5% in August to a record $ 82.9 billion. Imports of goods rose 3.1% to $ 201.3 billion, overshadowing the 2.8% increase in exports of goods to $ 118.3 billion.