The Current, delivered daily.
American consumers are ending the year on a hopeful note.
The Consumer Confidence Index rebounded in December after two straight months of declines, according to the Conference Board. This marked the highest reading for the index since April 2022.
The bounce up to 108.3 was a marked improvement over 101.4 in November. Consumers’ assessments of the current business and job conditions stepped up, as did expectations. However, the short-term outlook continues to hover around levels consistent with a recession.
The report came after two straight months of Consumer Price Index reports showing a deceleration of inflation in a year when it has been parked at 40-year highs. Economists say there is more work to do to bring inflation down, but gas prices have dropped, even as food prices remain elevated.
"The Present Situation and Expectations Indexes improved due to consumers' more favorable view regarding the economy and jobs,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, in a statement. “Inflation expectations retreated in December to their lowest level since September 2021, with recent declines in gas prices a major impetus.”
The uptick is a welcome signal to end a year in which consumer confidence and other measures like the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index have been in the doldrums amid stubborn inflation. It's especially encouraging at a time when recession fears for 2023 are fomenting.
It's among the signs that the economy continues to hold up. Third-quarter gross domestic product was revised upward to a growth rate of 3.2% by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis on Thursday. That's up from 2.9% in a prior reading. Meanwhile, the job market continues to be historically tight. Initial jobless claims inched up by 2,000 this week, but the theme across the economy continues to be one of job security.
But hazards remain heading into 2023. Inflation is still elevated, and the Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates for months. The cumulative effect of these actions on consumers will be a key economic story of the next year. Some areas are already feeling the impact. Home sales fell for the 10th straight month, with a 7.7% decline, the National Association of Realtors reported.
The Conference Board is already detecting a pullback in larger buys.
“Vacation intentions improved but plans to purchase homes and big-ticket appliances cooled further,” Franco said. “This shift in consumers' preference from big-ticket items to services will continue in 2023, as will headwinds from inflation and interest rate hikes."
Trending in Economy
On the Move has hiring news from Walmart US, Etsy, commercetools and more.
This week, retailers are bringing on C-level talent in areas such as people, operations and transformation. Plus, Kohl’s appoints an activist investor’s choice for CEO, Fanatics taps a former Snap executive for livestream shopping and Etsy brings aboard Facebook’s former general counsel.
Tom Kingsbury was appointed CEO of Kohl’s. Kingsbury was named interim CEO in December upon the resignation of now-Levi’s President Michelle Gass. Now, Kingsbury will have the job on a permanent basis. Kingsbury served as CEO of Burlington Stores from 2008-2019. Kingsbury was nominated by activist investor Macellum Advisors, which was pushing for change at Kohl’s. With Kingsbury’s appointment as CEO, Macellum has agreed to a “multi-year standstill.”
Judy Werthauser was appointed chief people officer at Walmart U.S. Werthauser comes to the teen-focused retailer from Five Below, where she served as EVP and chief experience officer. Over her four-year tenure, the chain grew from about 750 stores to more than 1,300 locations. Werthauser also served on the board of BJ's Wholesale Club, and is now resigning from that position. “I am excited to work alongside the world-class Walmart U.S. team as they bring the purpose of building a better world – helping people live better and renewing the planet while building thriving, resilient communities – to life,” Werthauser wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Mike Brewer was named chief operating officer at Crate & Barrel Holdings, overseeing operations at Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate & Kids and Hudson Grace. Brewer brings 20 years of experience from Nike, where he served in roles including sourcing, manufacturing and supply chain. Crate & Barrel said Brewer’s appointment was part of the home retailer’s “ongoing efforts to evaluate and alter its structure in ways that help support overall growth.”
Keith Melker. (Courtesy photo)
Keith Melker was appointed chief strategy and transformation officer at JCPenney. Melker comes to the department store retailer from Wehner Multifamily, where he served as CEO. He was also a previous chief strategy officer at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Melker will oversee the transformation office, which includes ownership of metrics such as profitable traffic, inventory management, digital growth and strategic partnerships. With this move, Katie Mullen will remain chief strategy officer.
Blaine Trainor is joining ecommerce software provider commercetools as VP of global partnerships and alliances. In the role, Trainor will lead the headless commerce company’s partnerships ecosystem, working with companies including Deloitte, CapGemini, AWS and Google Cloud. Trainor previously served in senior leadership roles at SAP over a 12-year tenure, and also held sales roles at hybris software and Sterling Commerce.
Nick Bell, a former Google and Snap executive, will lead a new livestream shopping division of Fanatics, Footwear News reported. Bell previously led the teams behind Google Search Experience, and served as VP and global head of content and partnerships at Snap Inc. Bell will lead the Fanatics Live division, which will launch a standalone app that is geared toward collectibles.
NIck Bell. (Photo via LinkedIn)
Colin Stretch was appointed chief legal officer at corporate secretary at Etsy, effective Feb. 14. Stretch previously served as general counsel at Facebook from 2013-2019. He then spent two years as leader in residence at Columbia University Law School's Reuben Mark Initiative for Organizational Character & Leadership, and went on to the law firm Latham & Watkins.
"Colin's extensive experience will be critical to Etsy's efforts to ensure we remain a safe and trusted marketplace, broaden our reach across all our brands, and advocate for microbusinesses around the world,” said CEO Josh Silvermann, in a statement.