Consumer confidence held strong and steady in January, at 111.8 for only a slight decrease from December's 15-year high of 113.3 (revised). Details are positive including a noticeable decline in those saying jobs are hard to get right now, at 21.5 percent vs December's 22.7 percent, combined with a solid rise in those who say jobs are plentiful, at 27.4 vs 26.0 percent.
But the outlook is less upbeat with more saying there will be fewer jobs 6 months from now and fewer saying there will be more. Confidence in income prospects is also down.
And there are red flags in the details, including a nearly 2 percentage point drop in buying plans for autos. This suggests that auto demand, after several months of very strong sales, may have understandably flattened. Home sales have been less strong than auto sales, but here too buying plans are down sharply.
Good news comes from inflation expectations which, after sinking in December to 4.5 percent which is very low for this reading, bounced back 4 tenths to 4.9 percent for the strongest showing since September.
Life in price expectations is a positive but whether there's too much life in consumer confidence, that is unsustainable strength, is another question. So far strong post-election confidence hasn't resulted in much economic pop as, outside of auto sales, actual growth in production and spending has been moderate.
The Conference Board's consumer confidence index has easily beat expectations the last two reports, by more than 6 points in December and more than 5 points in November. Forecasters are calling for an edging back in January to 112.2 from February's 113.7 in what would mark a topping out in the post-election run. Despite the enormous strength in confidence, recent strength in consumer spending has been limited.