Falling gasoline prices fail to boost consumer optimism in survey

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A monthly survey by the Alexandria-based National Association of Convenience Stores finds that consumer optimism fell this month despite declining gasoline prices.

Only 39 percent of respondents in the trade group’s monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey said they are optimistic about the economy, down 7 percentage points from July despite a 15-cent decline in gasoline prices in recent weeks.

The decline in consumer optimism in August is the largest recorded by the association since it began its survey in January 2013. The survey was designed to determine how gasoline prices affect consumer sentiment.

NACS said that with few exceptions, consumer sentiment has closely tracked gas prices, with optimism rising when prices fall and declining when prices rise.

The exceptions have included last fall's 16-day government shutdown and the stock market tumble at the end of July, when the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 300 points..

"The dramatic swings in consumer optimism over the past two months clearly show that sentiment remains fragile," Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives, said in a statement. "A rise or fall in everyday expenses — like gas prices — is usually an accurate predictor of sentiment unless something significant occurs, and this month it is clear that the recent sharp drop in stock prices — and concerns over world events — shook up consumers."

The NACS survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC, which talked to 1,111 gasoline customers on Aug. 5-7.

NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries. They operate more than 151,000 stores in the U.S.

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