Pessimism on Economy Declines With Gas Prices, Says NACS

And more consumers would consider diesel vehicle

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A decline in gasoline prices over the past month has led to a decline in overall consumer pessimism about the economy, according to results from the monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.

Although more than half (54%) of U.S. consumers surveyed in April said they remain pessimistic about the economy, it is the lowest percentage of consumer pessimism recorded this year. In addition, only 17% of consumers say that they are "very pessimistic"--a continuous decline from 23% in February and 20% in March.

"Our surveys are showing that consumer optimism or pessimism is related to gas prices," said John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores. "The actual price per gallon is less relevant to consumer sentiment than whether prices are rising or falling. And now that they are falling, people have a much better outlook on the economy, and that is certainly good news all around."

Consumers also are feeling less pressure concerning gasoline prices. An overwhelmingly majority (86%) of consumers still say that gasoline prices have an impact on their feelings about the economy, but that sentiment is also declining and is the lowest measured this year. Also, only 38% of consumers said that gasoline prices had a "great impact" on their feelings about the economy, the lowest percentage since January.

Meanwhile, as new fueling options hit the market, NACS looked at whether consumers are considering them. More than 4 in 10 (42%) consumers say that they would be likely to consider using a diesel fuel-powered vehicle, with 10% saying they would be "very likely" to use diesel. When it comes to diesel usage, there is a considerable gender gap, with 12% of men saying they would be "very likely to use diesel," compared to 7% of females.

"Prices and availability are likely factors in these results," said Eichberger. "While diesel engines generally get better performance per gallon, consumers still see that diesel fuel prices are higher than gas prices ($3.999 vs. $3.614, according to the Oil Price Information Service's April 8 weekly averages). Other factors are likely also at play, and we will be looking into those more closely in future surveys."

Because convenience stores sell 80% of the gasoline purchased in the country, NACS has conducted monthly surveys to measure consumer sentiment related to gasoline prices, other fuels-related issues and the economy. NACS will release a detailed survey in May in advance of the unofficial beginning of the summer drive season.