The current economic conditions subindex declined to 110 from 116.1 and the gauge for consumer expectations dropped to 78.3 from 87. Inflation expectations for the year ahead were flat at 2.7 percent and the 5-year outlook edged up to 2.6 percent from 2.5 percent.
Consumer sentiment declined in early January to its lowest level since Trump was elected. The decline was primarily focused on prospects for the domestic economy, with the year-ahead outlook for the national economy judged the worst since mid 2014. The loss was due to a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies. Aside from the direct economic impact from these various issues on the economy, the indirect effect meant that half of all consumers believed that these events would have a negative impact on Trump's ability to focus on economic growth. While the January falloff in optimism is certainly consistent with a slowdown in the pace of growth, it does not yet indicate the start of a sustained downturn in economic activity. It is the strength in personal finances that will continue to support consumption expenditures at favorable levels in 2019. Nonetheless, consumers now sense a need to buttress their precautionary savings, which is typically done by reducing their discretionary spending. Evolving job and wage prospects, which were slightly weaker in early January, are critical to extending the current expansion.