Has Gas-Price Pessimism Peaked?

Still high, but not higher, NACS Consumer Fuels Survey for March says

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumer pessimism related to gasoline prices and the economy remains high, but did not increase in March, according to the results from the monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.

While 59% of U.S. consumers again indicated that they are "very" or "somewhat" pessimistic about the economy, the percentage saying that they are "very pessimistic" about the economy seems to have peaked; 20% of consumers said that they were very pessimistic, compared to 23% the month prior. Pessimism about the economy remains highest in the West, with 27% of consumers saying that they were "very pessimistic."

Because convenience stores sell 80% of the gasoline purchased in the country, NACS conducts monthly surveys of gasoline customers to gauge their feelings related to gasoline prices, other fuels-related issues and the economy.

It is clear that gasoline prices are top of mind with consumers. More than nine of 10 consumers (91%) say that gasoline prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy, and nearly half of all consumers (47%) say that gasoline prices have a "great impact" impact in how they feel about the economy. Both numbers are new highs since NACS' first survey, conducted in Jan. 2013.

Meanwhile, it's possible that consumers may also feel that the worst is over; 60% of consumers say that gasoline prices will be higher in the coming 30 days. While still a strong majority of consumers, this number is a decrease from the 62% recorded in the previous two months.

"Consumers are saying that gas prices are having a significant impact on their everyday activities," said NACS vice president of government relations John Eichberger. "The decline in gas prices over the past two weeks may provide a sliver of good news for the economy overall. The effect of the declining prices on consumers' opinions about gas prices and the economy in general is a trend line that we will closely be watching."

NACS conducts monthly surveys of gasoline consumers to learn their opinions on a variety of fuels-related issues. This latest survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates LLC, with 801 gasoline consumers surveyed on March 5, 2013.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $681 billion in total sales in 2011, of which $486 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,200 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.