Stock market volatility took a toll on Main Street, as consumer sentiment fell to the worst level in a year: the University of Michigan index dropped to 85.7 – the lowest since September 2014.
Small business optimism edged slightly higher in August with the NFIB index rising modestly to 95.9. According to the NFIB, “small business owners did not seem to be very concerned about the antics of the stock market or China’s currency devaluation. Maybe it was too late in the month to be fully captured by the survey so more might be revealed in September, but most small business owners have their capital primarily invested in their own firm, not other people’s firms.”
Of the index’s ten components: five posted gains, three declined and two were unchanged.
The number of job openings surged 8% and hit a record of 5.75 million in July, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. However, despite the increase in available jobs, employers were slow to fill positions as hiring fell to 4.98 million from 5.18 million in June.
Americans showed that they were willing to borrow for big-ticket purchases, as consumer credit rose to a record in July, increasing by $19.1 billion to a total $3.45 trillion. Credit card debt expanded by $4.3 billion and non-revolving debt like auto and student loans rose $14.8 billion.
Gasoline averaged $2.64 per gallon in August, and is expected to decline to an average $2.11 during the fourth quarter, according to the latest projection from the Energy Information Agency.